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GM Europe president reassures UK workforce

The president of GM Europe has moved to reassure its UK workforce by outlining its plans for the future after the manufacturer called off its proposed sell off.

Nick Reilly, president of GM Europe, first explained that the reason for his title of president was down to consistency.

“We have three presidents in our organisation going forward: one for North America, one International (AP & LAAM) and one for Europe,” explained Reilly.

“We will not have a return to the former GME organisation. There will be two organisations in Europe: Opel/Vauxhall and Chevrolet Europe. I will be accountable for both, run Opel/Vauxhall while Wayne Brannon will continue to be in charge of Chevrolet Europe.”

On the question of an Opel/Vauxhall chief executive officer he said his remit would include this responsibility and no appointment would now be made, while a new management team would be announced next week.

On the Opel/Vauxhall product portfolio, he added: “I see gaps which need to be filled. Opel needs a mini; that will be our top priority. I want to clarify that we will also need to continue with light commercial vehicles, that is a reasonable share of our business.

“We can take advantage of global technology and look at introducing hybrids. Ampera will be manufactured in Europe. Initially, the car will be imported from the US, but long-term, we are looking for a local source. Ellesmere Port is one of the candidates, but there are others. Also, we will look at battery technology. Electric vehicles will increase the focus on that.”

He went on to describe Friday’s meeting in Brussels as positive. “We need €3.3 billion in total of which €1 billion is for restructuring. The rest primarily will be for investments in new products.

“We expect to lose money in 2010, so we will need some support to get through next year. I am not sure when a decision will be made, but I’ve been getting positive responses. The aid will be in line with national and EU rules. No date on when to expect a decision.

“There is a belief out there that GM has sufficient money in the U.S. that it can spend in Europe. That is not the case.

“Much of that money will be needed for Delphi and completing restructuring in the US. We also have some of that money in an escrow account for disasters in the US and we can’t touch that.

“Third, the US market remains depressed and we have to have some money to get us through 2011. We also need to pay back loans to the US government. Finally the money is US taxpayer money. We can use some of it outside of the US but not all.”

On government support from Germany, he added: “We’ve prepared an application for the German government.

“They were willing to support Magna deal, so we expect some support for our plan. Financial aid is no different from other car companies in the US or Japan or other European countries. I am optimistic they will come forth with aid. But regardless, the German government decision will not lead to more or fewer lay-offs in Germany.

“The expectation is that we will get financial support from most European governments. We would be disappointed if Germany is the only country which does not participate.”

However, on the Antwerp facility he said he would not be making any announcement until discussions were finalised.

“We will and are looking for alternatives”, explained Reilly. “But bear in mind, we must reduce capacity and we must reduce structural costs. We had plans and an agreement in place, but some plans can’t come true in view of the changing business environment. To be sustainable, we must reduce capacity.”

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