GM’s Opel Will Replace Astra With Zafira at Ruesselsheim Plant

General Motors Co.’s Opel brand will stop making its Astra hatchback in Ruesselsheim, Germany, in 2015 to make space for the Zafira minivan now made at the Bochum site scheduled to close by the end of next year.

The company’s plant in Gliwice, Poland, will increase Astra production to make up for the lost volume, Ulrich Weber, a spokesman for the company, said by phone today.

GM is reducing European production in an effort to stem losses in the region that have totaled more than $18 billion since 1999. The Detroit-based manufacturer said it would close the Bochum factory after workers rejected an offer of job security until 2016 in exchange for wage cuts.

“It’s a normal transition from one model to the other and a process that will evolve step by step,” Weber said.

Ruesselsheim will stop producing the Astra before the second half of 2015, the Handelsblatt newspaper reported today. Weber didn’t comment on the exact timing.

About 50,000 five-door Astra models were manufactured in Ruesselsheim last year, comparable to the amount of Zafira vans made in Bochum, Weber said. The Astra competes with Volkswagen AG’s best-selling Golf model.

Ellesmere Port

The next version of the Astra will be built in Gliwice and Ellesmere Port, England, from 2015. Workers at the British plant, operated by the Vauxhall brand, accepted wage cuts as part of labor deal that will run into the early 2020s.

The site employs 2,122 people producing three types of Astra, and has an annual capacity of 187,000 vehicles, according to the company’s website. The next-generation Astra will add 700 jobs at Ellesmere Port and guarantees an output of at least 160,000 cars a year, the company said.

Combined Opel and Vauxhall new car registrations in Europe declined 5.2 percent to 279,409 vehicles in the four months through April, compared with a market fall of 7 percent, according to the ACEA industry group. The Brussels-based organization will publish May figures next week.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.