Opel Says 2009 Car Sales Already Higher Than in 2008

Layoffs at one factory are cancelled

Troubled German carmaker Opel said on Sept. 3 it has sold more cars in Germany since January than in all of last year thanks to a government bonus scheme, as speculation swirled over its future.

In the first eight months of 2009, Opel delivered 280,705 vehicles, surpassing the 2008 figure of 272,898, sales director Michael Klaus said.

August sales of 32,600 cars marked the highest level for that month since 2000.

Partial unemployment measures planned at a western German factory in Bochum that produces the small Astra model would be cancelled as a result, the compay said.

Opel has benefitted from a car scrapping rebate that pays drivers 2,500 euros (US$3,550) to turn in an old car for a new one, but the scheme ended on Sept. 23 and sales of small cars are likely to fall again next year.

Meanwhile, Opel's parent company General Motors has not decided whether it will sell a stake in the automaker or possibly retain all of its shares. The Wall Street Journal said on Sept. 3 that GM expected to get one billion euros in public aid from Britain, Poland and Spain on top of state support already provided by Germany. That could allow GM to avoid selling a majority stake in Opel to either the Canadian auto parts maker Magna, which is backed by Russian partners, or the Belgian-based investment fund RHJ International.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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