Italian brand lining up factory closures as part of Opel takeover
6 May 2009

Fiat would axe both of Opel/Vauxhall's British plants as part of a bid to cull 18,000 jobs if it secures a takeover of GM's European arm, according to reports in the German media.

German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung claims that a leaked report, called "Project Football", outlines plans for 10 factory closures across Europe, and the removal of the Lancia brand from the market in the longer term.

"Project Football" is said to specify 10 production facilities that could be closed. The first to go would be Opel's plant in Antwerp, Belgium, where the local government has already offered to buy the facility and lease it back to the troubled brand in a bid to secure its future.

Vauxhall's plants in Ellesmere Port and Luton would follow, along with Italian factories Pomigliano (home to many Alfa Romeos) and Termini Imerese, where the Lancia Ypsilon is produced. Opel component plants in Russelsheim, Kaiserslautern and Bochum would also be either trimmed or closed altogether, and there would be further cuts at factories in Austria and Poland.

Cutting so many jobs could cost Fiat up to €1bn (£880m), but the measures could save the firm up to €500m (£441m) per year. Sources on Opel's supervisory board have told Reuters that Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne is also keen to remove Saab and Lancia from the market. The Swedish brand is searching for a potential buyer anyway ahead of the GM sell-off, but killing off the Lancia brand would be a potentially controversial move for Fiat in its home market.

Fiat has issued a statement denying all knowledge of the document. "It is not information generated by Fiat and does not form part of any plan prepared by Fiat," it said. But Klaus Franz, a prominent union official with Opel, confirmed after meetings with Marchionne that factories in Britain, Germany and Italy are being lined up for closure if the takeover occurs.

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