* GM protects U.S. market, protects China for now
* Magna says little appetite for buying Saturn, Saab
* Sees Opel breaking even in three years, profit in four
* Seeks government help for electric vehicle production
(Adds remarks on electric vehicle production)
By Randall Palmer
OTTAWA, June 2 Magna International Inc MGa.TO
is prevented by an agreement with General Motors Corp
GMGMQ.PK from selling Opel cars in the United States and, for
now, in China, the chairman of the Canadian auto parts company
said on Tuesday.
"The agreement with General Motors does prevent us from
selling Opel in the United States," Frank Stronach told
reporters at a news conference in Ottawa. A Magna-led
consortium has agreed to buy European automaker Opel from GM.
Asked if the agreement applies to China too, he said, "Yes,
for the moment, but keep in mind that General Motors -- we've
been working together for 50 years, we've been great partners,
and they still own 35 percent (of Opel)."
He suggested the prohibition on Opel sales in China might
be flexible. "If it makes economic sense you might persuade
people to change something."
Stronach also said he expects Opel to break even in three
years, and to turn a profit in four.
Now that Magna has agreed to take on Opel, Stronach
displayed little appetite for buying Saturn and Saab from GM,
which is trying to unload those brands.
"We have to digest Opel now, and we have got a mouthful, so
we'll see how quickly that will take place," he said.
Stronach was in the Canadian capital to seek government
funding for a project to produce electrical systems for
electric cars and, eventually, electric cars themselves.
"I'm very confident that Magna will be amongst the leaders
in selling and building electric cars," he said, after
demonstrating a Ford (F.N) prototype with a Magna electrical
He said it would cost about C$300 million ($280 million) to
build a plant, and he would like to build it in Canada, but he
is being courted by U.S. states and European countries.
Magna is seeking a federal loan for half that amount under
Canada's Automotive Innovation Fund, designed to support
research and development projects to build greener vehicles
"If we get a loan we know we could speed it up. We could
make sure it's going to be in Canada," he said, adding that
mass production could begin within three years.
Stronach said that if the company did produce electric
cars, it would make sure it set up walls between the car
manufacturing and parts manufacturing divisions, so as to
assure fair treatment for major automakers that buy Magna
(Additional reporting by Louise Egan; editing by Rob Wilson)