Opel it will halt building its Astra compact hatchback at its Ruesselsheim site in Germany in 2015 to pave way for the production of the Zafira minivan. Opel is currently building the Zafira at its Bochum site that is set for closure by the end of 2014. Opel’s Gliwice plant in Poland, meanwhile, will hike Astra output to offset the lost volume, according to Opel spokesman Ulrich Weber.
He described the moves as a normal transition from one model to the other and a process that will “evolve step by step." According to Handelsblatt German business daily, the Ruesselsheim site will halt producing the Astra before the second half of 2015. The Ruesselsheim site built around 50,000 Astras in 2012, similar to the number of Zafiras produced in Bochum, Weber said.
The Astra is targeted against the Volkswagen Golf compact. Opel will produce the next-generation Astra in Gliwice and Ellesmere Port, United Kingdom, starting in 2015. Ellesmere Port workers have agreed to wage cuts as part of a labor agreement that lasts until early 2020s.The site, operated by Opel sister-company Vauxhall, employs 2,122 people and builds three types of Astra variants and has an annual capacity of 187,000 vehicles.
The production of the new Astra will add 700 jobs at the site and guarantees an annual output of at least 160,000 cars, the carmaker said. Both Opel and Vauxhall posted a 5-percent drop in new car registrations in Europe to 279,409 vehicles in the first four months of 2013, according to industry group ACEA.
Opel’s parent General Motors Co. is cutting its production in Europe as part of its bid to reduce its losses, which have totaled to over $18 billion since 1999. GM announced it would shut down the Bochum plant after site workers declined wage cuts in exchange for job security until 2016.