GM Plans New Opels at Tolyatti

General Motors' joint venture with AvtoVAZ plans to start assembling two Opel models either next year or in 2008, Vedomosti reported Friday, citing sources close to the venture.

AvtoVAZ executives will discuss expanding the model range for its Tolyatti-based venture in a meeting with GM Europe executives in Germany in mid-December, the paper cited a source as saying. An official announcement to expand the range may be made at that time, the paper said.

Vedomosti also cited GM-AvtoVAZ chief Richard Swando as saying Thursday that the partners "have laid the foundation for an important announcement to be made early next year."

With the two new models, the venture will make 100,000 units in 2008, Vedomosti cited the source as saying.

A spokeswoman for GM-AvtoVAZ on Friday declined to confirm the report and said the firm had not made "any decision to launch any Opel models into production soon." Spokespeople for GM Europe and AvtoVAZ said they were unaware of the plans for new models.

GM-AvtoVAZ makes Chevy Niva sport utility vehicles and Viva sedans. Sales of the Viva, a Russian version of the Opel Astra, have so far been sluggish.

Car dealerships said the Opel models might be older versions of Opel Zafira and Opel Corsa vehicles, Vedomosti reported.

GM-AvtoVAZ plans to make 49,000 units next year, the spokeswoman said. "Shareholders asked the operation management ... to pursue an additional 10 percent target for next year," she said by e-mail.

GM and AvtoVAZ each hold 41.5 percent in the joint venture, while the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development holds the remaining 17 percent.

Renault executive vice president Patrick Pelata on Thursday met with Federal Industry Agency Chairman Boris Alyoshin, an AvtoVAZ board member, for talks on cooperation with AvtoVAZ, Vedomosti reported. Renault has offered to help AvtoVAZ increase the production of Lada Kalinas to 300,000 units per year and also produce some 80,000 Renault Logans.