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GM reviewing timing of Russia plant expansion

MOSCOW (Reuters) - General Motors Co said on Friday it was reviewing the timing of the expansion of its Russian plant near St Petersburg because of a slump in the auto market.

The company opened the $300 million plant in 2008 and planned to launch the second stage in 2015. The plant currently makes Chevrolet Cruze, Opel Astra, and Chevrolet Trailblazer models.

"In view of the current business situation in Russia and the lower sales volumes since the start of the year, we are taking a close look at our plans. As part of this, we are also reviewing the timing of our expansion plans at the GM Auto Plant in St Petersburg," GM's spokesman said.

The company has not disclosed which models the second stage of the plant would produce.

On Thursday, GM said it was to reduce production at the plant to four days a month in August and September, extending to eight in October.

Car sales have faltered in Russia this year as economic growth has slowed, causing people to put off large purchases. Consumer sentiment has come under further pressure because of Western sanctions over the crisis in Ukraine.

The downturn in Russia's car market gathered pace in July, with sales sliding 23 percent year-on-year after a 17 percent fall in the previous month, according to the Association of European Businesses (AEB).

AEB data showed that sales of GM's Chevrolet cars fell 45 percent in July, year-on-year, while Opel sales tumbled 25 percent.

(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Editing by Christian Lowe)

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