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In a land where the Ladas actually pass as respectable cars, the Chrysler Sebring has been rejected by consumers.
According to several reports, production of the Sebring (rebadged as the Volga Siber) has been stopped due to low demand.
The car (based on the previous generation model and not our current Sebring), was being produced by Russian automaker GAZ, after it purchased the tooling and rights from Chrysler. GAZ had expected to sell as many as 40,000 cars a year, but only ever produced a maximum of 2,500 cars.
Officials at GAZ have denied the reports so far, but sources indicate the automaker is preparing to partner with one or more other foreign automakers (the list includes Volkswagen, Mercedes and General Motors) to produce cars under contract for the Russian market.
After continued rumors that General Motors was still shopping-around its European Opel operations, it appears as though a new buyer has been found. RHJ International, a Belgian company has been cited as the latest bidder and apparently a tentative deal could be signed by the end of the week.
Initially Opel was slated to be sold to Canadian autoparts manufacturer Magna International, but those plans have hit several roadblocks. Magna’s deal did not guarantee the same amount of job protection to Opel’s German workforce and so it put in jeopardy a $2.1 billion loan from the German government. Additionally, GM was not excited about the prospect of handing over its technology so that Magna and Russian partners Sberbank and GAZ could use it to build vehicles for the Russian market.
The deal put forward by RHJ, on the other hand, is more likely to be attractive to the German government and GM would not have to fear competition in the Russian marketplace.
According to the Financial Times, however, the RHJ deal is more attractive because of one factor, the price. An initial bid by the holding company had GM sign an agreement with Magna instead, but apparently RHJ has now upped its offer.
According to the Financial Times, GM could sign tentative agreements with both companies, meaning that the sale of Opel to Magna is not completely out of the question.
One of the other Opel bidders, China’s Beijing Automotive Industry Corp., is also expected to make GM a more attractive offer in the near future.
So it looks like Opel is in hot demand and GM is back in the driver’s seat as it looks to get the most for its European operations and emerge from bankruptcy in the best financial state possible.
[Source: Automotive News]
Successful Saturn Bid Could See Opel-Based Saturns Built in Canada
By solidifying a deal to take control of GM’s European operations, Canada’s Magna International Inc. is eager to start producing Opel cars in Canada.
“We want to build Opel cars in Canada,” said company founder and CEO Frank Stronach. “Canada should have its own Canadian company … a truly Canadian automobile industry.”
The third largest auto parts supplier in the world, Magna certainly has the resources and the know-how – it just doesn’t have the facilities to build cars in Canada. That, however, might all change as Chrysler may close operations and General Motors Canada recently shut down its truck plant in Oshawa, Ontario.
The lower value of the Canadian currently would likely help matters and should be enough to easily offset the cost of shipping vehicles to Europe – although it’s not clear that Canadian-built cars would be for the European market, as moving production outside of Germany would certainly be a devastating public relations move.
What Stronach may have in mind is for Opel-based cars to be built in Canada for distribution in Canada and the U.S. As Magna is also currently bidding to take control of Saturn from GM, it’s entirely possible that production of those models, all but one of which are based on Opel vehicles, could happen in Magna’s backyard.
There is also a strong possibility that Magna will expand into the Russian car market.
Magna’s partners in the Opel deal include Sberbank of Russia and both Stronach and Magna have strong ties to Russia. Stronach actually did work as an auto industry adviser for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Russian Magna investor Oleg Deripaska (the owner of Russian truck maker GAZ) has had long standing aspirations to sell consumer cars.
Building Opel models in Russia is a strong possibility, however, it is unlikely those models would be exported to Europe.
General Motors is expected to announce final candidates for the sale of Saturn in the next few weeks.
[Source: The Globe and Mail]