GM eyes joint ventures, more plants in Russia

MOSCOW, Feb 29 (Reuters) - General Motors Corp GM.N is in talks with other automobile firms over possible joint ventures and new plants in Russia, the group said on Friday.

“We are talking with a number of major companies in Russia,” said Chris Gubbey, newly-appointed vice president of General Motors Europe (GME) and Russia and CIS managing director.

He told a press briefing joint ventures and stand-alone plants were being considered along with cooperation with other foreign firms.

Gubbey declined to name the companies involved or how far GME had come in the talks.

GM, Russia’s no. 1 foreign automobile company, sells five brands in Russia including the Hummer sports utility vehicle.

GM hopes to sell more than 300,000 units in Russia in 2008, up from 260,000 last year, said Heidi McCormack, general director of GM CIS. By 2010, GM wants Russia to be its largest market in Europe, she added.

Besides the Hummer, GM also sells cars under the Cadillac, Saab, Opel and Chevrolet brands in Russia.

It has two assembly plants, one operated via a joint venture with Russia's largest carmaker AvtoVAZ AVAZ.MM in the Volga city of Togliatti, where it makes the Chevrolet Niva.

Its own manufacturing plant near St Petersburg, which will make the Chevrolet Captiva, will go on stream late this year with an initial annual capacity of 25,000 units.

On Friday French carmaker Renault RENA.PA agreed to pay up to $1.17 billion for a quarter of Russia's AvtoVAZ. (Reporting by Amie Ferris-Rotman; Editing by David Holmes)