After it put on hold its output in Russia, General Motors hopes that the day when the automaker restarts production will soon come.
Car sales in Russia have reached in 2015 the lowest level since 2009, and forecasts show the decrease will continue in 2016, as the country’s economy last year was in its deepest crisis in a decade. On these gloomy grounds, many automakers have reconsidered their plans and targets for the Russian market. One of those companies is General Motors, which last year put on hold its plant in St. Petersburg and stopped the sales of mainstream Chevrolet models and all Opel cars in the country. But this does not mean that GM has given up on building cars in Russia. Even if there are no current plans to restart production, the automaker still has what it takes if it decides to bring to life its Russian operations. GM still has dealers which sell Cadillac and premium Chevrolet models, “so never say never,” the company’s Europe head Karl-Thomas Neumann told Automotive News Europe in an interview. Holding on the production line in St. Petersburg is the right path to go for the long-term perspectives, as keeping costs are not that high. “If we sold it, the gain would only be short term and it doesn’t cost us much to keep it,” he said.
But once Opel has left the market, a comeback is unlikely to happen in the future. “I would be very surprised if the brand we come back with is Opel,” Neumann said, who is also Opel CEO. Despite the plunger, the Russian market still has a great potential for expansion, a reason behind GM’s efforts to exit as gentle as possible in case of a return. “We tried to leave Russia in a way that we don’t burn any bridges,” Neumann concluded. “We wanted to be a good citizen and do it in a way such that we can look at each other in the eyes afterward.”