GLIWICE, Poland –Adam Opel AG’s car plant here has begun assembly of the current-generation, Astra II.

Once the all-new, third-generation Opel Astra, unveiled last month at the Frankfurt auto show, goes into production in Western Europe in January, Opel Polska Sp. z o.o. will be the continent’s only remaining production site for the Astra II. (See related story: Compact Car Wars Begin in Europe)

Opel Polska will assemble up to 2,000 Astras this year.

Opel Polska will build its first 1,300 to 2,000 Astra IIs in 2003, and about 40,000 units are expected to be assembled next year. Currently, the cars are produced from parts sourced within Western Europe. Stamping operations will be included in early 2004. Opel Polska also makes the Opel Agila microvan.

The Polish-made Astra II will be manufactured as a sedan, 5-door hatchback, station wagon and delivery van. About 80% of the total volume will be exported to Central and Eastern Europe, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, as well as some South American and Asian countries. The delivery van version also will be shipped to Western Europe.

Similarly, Opel Polska produced the first-generation Astra after manufacturing had ceased in Western Europe. More than 103,000 of the Astra I, dubbed Astra Classic, were built between August 1998 and June 2002 in Poland and sold in Central and Eastern Europe.

Launch of Astra II production is resulting in an increase in employees from the current 2,000 to 2,200 in 2004.

Opel Polska manufactured 85,720 vehicles – Agila and Astra Classic – last year. About 95% were exported mainly to Europe and China.

The Astra II project is a part of the package of offset investments in Poland connected with the purchase of U.S.-made F-16 jet fighters for the Polish Army.