March 28, 2012 - 15:44 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - The board of European carmaker Opel met on Wednesday, March 28 under pressure from parent General Motors to put an end to years of steep losses, with thousands of workers in Germany and Britain fearing the closure of their plants, Reuters reported.
The 20-person board, which includes United Auto Workers boss Bob King for the first time, was scheduled to begin meeting at Opel's headquarters in Russelsheim at around 0900 GMT.
The gathering is expected to last into late afternoon. It is not clear whether management will submit a mid-term business plan, which would include plant closures, or focus on less sensitive issues such as the appointment of a new sales chief.
GM Chief Executive Dan Akerson and Opel Chairman Steve Girsky are pushing Opel CEO Karl-Friedrich Stracke to lower the company's breakeven point by shifting production from high-wage countries in western Europe to emerging markets.
Though Opel has said no plants will go before the end of 2014, most expect the 50-year old factory at Bochum in western Germany will be earmarked for closure, along with one at Ellesmere Port, the company's only remaining car plant in the UK, where the brand is known as Vauxhall.
Economic weakness has hit car sales in Europe, forcing makers to confront high fixed costs and a capacity overhang in the sector that GM Chief Executive Dan Akerson says equates to up to 10 plants.
Opel's own Antwerp plant, Fiat's woefully uneconomical Sicilian plant, and the Trollhattan factory of insolvent carmaker Saab were shut down in recent years, and Mitsubishi is ending car production in its Netherlands facility by year-end.
But Europe still has around 240 plants in 27 countries and political resistance to plant closures has been strong. In the United States, Detroit's big three automakers - GM, Ford and Chrysler, now partnered with Fiat - closed 13 plants between 2008 and 2012.