The company had previously announced that the plant would be shut after the reorganisation of GM Europe. Opel and Vauxhall are the two largest brands of GM’s European arm.
Magna, which along with Russian backer Sberbank will now own the majority stake in GM Europe, had originally stated that the Belgian factory – which employs 2500 people – was the only plant under the threat of closure. Concern over the Antwerp plant’s closure led Opel and Vauxhall workers from factories in the UK, Poland, Spain, Germany and Belgium to protest outside the plant in September.
“There will be a new Opel/Vauxhall and it will include Antwerp,” Klaus Franz, who heads Opel’s work council, told the 5000 protestors.
Magna – which under the deal brokered by the German government will own a 55% majority stake in Opel/Vauxhall operations while GM will hold onto 35% and the rest will be owned by Opel employees – is said to now be considering moving the production of the new, small GM SUV, slated to be produced in China, to the Antwerp facility.
Whatever decision is made over the Antwerp plant, Magna will have to embark upon a cost-cutting exercise, which will almost certainly include job lay-offs across Europe. Magna’s co-CEO, Siegfried Wolf, stated during a press conference in September that as many as 10,900 GM jobs could be axed, half of those from Germany.
The UK, Belgian and Spanish governments have all voiced concern to the European Commission that because the German government has promised €3bn in loan guarantees towards the Magna purchase of Opel – on the heels of supporting Opel with €1.5bn in short-term loans – jobs could therefore shift to Germany.
But not all automotive news coming out of Europe is so dire as GM’s troubles: Volkswagen has announced it is planning to expand its workforce in Slovakia by 1550 employees.
The German car-maker plans to launch production of its small family model in 2011 in the Slovakian capital of Bratislava. Current output at the factory – which makes the Audi Q7, Skoda Octavia, VW Touareg and the Porsche Cayenne – stands at approximately 180,000 vehicles a year. With the new line, the factory is expected to increase production to 400,000 vehicles a year.