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GM bearer of glad tidings for Saab plant - extended

Saab's factory in Sweden's Trollhättan is one of four locations selected by General Motors for the production of the next generation of compact cars.

The decision means that production is certain to continue beyond 2010, according to Metalworkers' Union spokesman Paul Åkerlund. The new compact cars will also be manufactured in Bochum in Germany, Gliwice in Poland and Ellesmere Port in Britain. General Motors' Antwerp plant will not be involved in the production of the new Astra models. The Belgian facility would build cars for other GM brands, the labor leader said, but details still needed to be worked out, according to the company.

„We are very pleased with the decision. There could be around 750,000 cars using the new Delta platform and we hope to produce around 100,000 cars in Trollhättan after 2010,” said Paul Åkerlund. The union chairman is critical of how the leadership of GM has dealt with the issue of localization. The GM union has been strongly opposed to the closure of any of the five plants that were under consideration for the production of compact cars.

The US company, which is struggling to cut costs in its home market, makes Opel, Saab and Vauxhall cars in Europe. It is planning to invest €3.1 billion ($3.9 billion) in the new Astra. The company wants production time for the new Astra model to be cut from 24 hours to 15 hours per car, said Rainer Einenkel, head of the works council at the Bochum plant. "We've achieved our principal objective, to prevent works closures,” said Klaus Franz, chairman of the Opel works council in Germany.

GM, which employs 60,000 workers in Europe, has shed more than 12,000 jobs as part of a restructuring program introduced in 2005 to cut losses in its European operations. Last year Opel recorded a net profit of $227 million - its first in seven years. But the parent company has been hit by a sharp downturn in US sales of its cars after failing to predict a consumer swing to smaller, fuel-saving models. As part of the cost-cutting measures, GM closed its Opel plant at Azambuja in Portugal, cutting 1,100 jobs. (thelocal.se, eux.tv)