Russian carmaker Avtotor Holding has launched production of Opel cars at Kaliningrad with GM Europe supporting both inbound and outbound movements to and from the plant by rail.
The company is beginning with assembly of semi-knockdown kits of the Astra and Zafira which are being brought by rail from GM Europe’s plants at Antwerp in Belgium, Bochum in Germany and Gliwice in Poland. The Kaliningrad plant will move on to welding and painting between 2010-2011 with a total investment in production for Opel vehicles of $50m.
GM and Avtotor plan to produce up to 25,000 cars GM at Kaliningrad despite sales in Russia being down 62%. The company said it is anticipating a rapid resurgence next year and with the removal of import tariffs, which production in Kaliningrad guarantees, it expects to maximise on its competitively priced Astra, which is popular in Russia.
The finished vehicles will be transported from Kaliningrad by rail to Moscow for shipment onward to local Russian dealers by road.
The Opel vehicles join 27 models of seven different brands currently produced by Avtotor, including BMW, Kia and Chevrolet. In July the company launched serial production of the BMW X5 and BMW X6 with an annual target of 1,000 vehicles.
Avtotor Holding’s CEO Valery Gorbunov said in a statement that representatives of Canada's auto parts supplier Magna, which is acting in consortium with Russia's Sberbank to assume control of German auto giant Opel, visited the Kaliningrad facility and assured its management that if the Opel deal went through successfully, the Opel new owner would not close Opel car output at the facility.
In the first nine months of 2009, Avtotor produced about 48,200 cars. Last year, the company assembled approximately 110,000 vehicles.
GM’s St Petersburg plant will also start producing Opel models next year, with other Russian sites to join in when the GM-Magna-Sberbank deal is finalised.