Three years ago I met a chap who had been the head of a Canadian bank. He'd also been a big cheese in Canadian industry, and had been involved with the Japanese car industry too.
We were both in agreement that General Motors was about to go belly up. We were both very wrong. And the extent to which we were wrong became apparent in a news story that pinged onto the web on Monday afternoon.
According to Klaus Franz, head of the Opel worker's council, the next-generation Vauxhall Zafira, due in mid-2009, could be made in Detroit and exported to Europe.
"At the moment it's an unlikely scenario, but the pressure on the European factories is growing," Franz said.
A European mainstream car built in the States? Well, sure, that's pretty unusual, you might say. However, if the Zafira is sourced from the US it will prove a landmark in the history of car production, and a massive victory for GM's product czar Bob Lutz.
At the Geneva Show in February 2006, Lutz announced GM was on the verge of an automotive manufacturing revolution. GM engineers were working in global architecture teams designing new platforms, which would be virtually identical where ever in the world they were built. The platforms would be flexible enough to come in two lengths and two widths. Either a beam axle or a multilink suspension set-up at the rear, depending on the market and the price point, would also be available.
Lutz claimed that identical platforms meant identical factories across the globe. And sure enough, there's likely to be Epsilon II platform factories (the architecture under the next Vectra and Saab 9-3) in Europe, the US, Korea and China.
"We will get to the point where we can build any car anywhere in the world with about three months' notice; that gives us flexibility in terms of shifting wage costs and exchange rates," Lutz told Autocar.
The US Dollar is sliding down in value, and likely to stay that way for some time to come. Building a Zafira in Dollars and selling it in Euros could massively boost the profit made on each individual car.
But where lift-and-shift global car production leaves European factories and workers is another matter altogether.