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Opel Sales Jump On Car-Scrapping Bonus Program

General Motors' German unit saw first-quarter sales in Germany surge 60 percent as the government introduced a car-scrapping bonus to encourage auto sales.

LEIPZIG, Germany (AP) -- General Motors Corp.'s German-based Opel unit saw first-quarter sales in Germany surge as the government introduced a car-scrapping bonus to encourage auto sales, a company official said Friday.

Adam Opel GmbH sold some 120,000 cars in the first three months of the year, a 60 percent increase over the previous year, new sales director Michael Klaus said at an auto show in Leipzig.

That appeared to be thanks largely to a popular new German government program offering a euro2,500 bonus ($3,400) for people who scrap cars that are at least nine years old and buy new ones.

The government appears set to expand funding for the program, for which euro1.5 billion has been set aside so far -- enough to cover about 600,000 sales. Officials say that 335,000 applications have been received.

The sales surge provides a welcome boost for Opel while politicians wrestle over whether and how to support the automaker as its U.S. parent struggles to avoid bankruptcy.

A poll published Friday found a majority of Germans opposed to the government taking a stake in Opel, one possible option. The poll of 1,245 people found 52 percent against the move and only 41 percent in favor.

The survey, conducted between Tuesday and Thursday by the Forschungsgruppe Wahlen polling agency for ZDF television, gave a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is due to visit Opel's Ruesselsheim headquarters next Tuesday. The German government has pledged to work closely with the U.S. administration on Opel's future.

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