Germany and Sweden ruled out underwriting rescue plans for Opel and Saab while Canada's Industry Minister warned on Monday that the crisis-hit North American car industry was at the precipice of nonexistence.

Underlining the severity of the crisis battering the car industry, with sales plunging as the credit crunch hits consumer confidence, assembly lines at some Volkswagen plants fell silent on Monday as Europe's biggest carmaker switched to a short working week for the first time in 26 years.

And Continental owner Schaeffler said it needed 5-6 billion euros of funding and third-party support.

As the U.S. government was reported to be readying contingency funds for GM and Chrysler , Berlin distanced itself on Monday from any commitment to Opel's future, saying it would wait for the ailing automaker to present a business plan due on Friday before considering state guarantees.

Politicians were divided about opening what some analysts consider a Pandora's box of state aid to industry.

Sweden's Industry Minister Maud Olofsson said she is not prepared to look into loan guarantees for Saab either unless the carmaker finds a private investor to back its business plan.

Meanwhile General Motors UK, which trades under the Vauxhall brand, told Reuters it had not asked the UK government for bailout cash as it did not need it.

Canadian Industry Minister Tony Clement said on Monday that Chrysler had provided more details on its Canada-specific plans after initially sending a copy of the long-term viability plan it submitted to the U.S. Treasury last week.

Both GM and Chrysler have said they would ask for help from Canada in proportion to their manufacturing capacity there.

Clement said on Monday that GM's restructuring plan showed it was on the right track.

Sweden's Saab, which won protection from creditors on Friday and stepped up efforts to find a partner and raise fresh funds, estimates it will lose 3 billion crowns ($543 million) this year.

Opel needs some 3.3 billion euros ($4.15 billion) to keep afloat to the end of 2011, a company source told Reuters Friday.

German Economy Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg said on Monday it was not the state's job to decide how Opel should tackle its future.

But a U.S. Treasury official told Reuters that extra state funds might be available for GM and Chrysler, which last week, requested nearly $22 billion in government loans on top of $17.4 billion received so far.

German trade union IG Metall is pushing for a partial carve-out of the company and would like the option of an outside investor included in Friday's business plan, Opel supervisory board member Armin Schild told Reuters.

Sweden's Olofsson said the government needed a private investor to answer for Saab's turnaround. We need to know there is a secure ownership which takes responsibility for the business plan so that it (Saab) can show a profit in 2012, 2013, she said in remarks broadcast on public radio.

Saab's chief executive Jan-Ake Jonsson said other carmakers were among the investors that had shown interest in the unit, in an interview with Swedish business daily Dagens Industri on Sunday.


Commerzbank raised doubts about the usefulness of state backing. An increasing number of politicians reject such intervention due to the uncertain long-term viability of Opel on the one hand, and the risk of an unfair competitive advantage on the other, the bank said in a note published on Monday.

We believe that it will not be possible to run Opel on a standalone basis.

Juergen Michels, euro zone economist at Citigroup in London, said the German government was still cautiously considering more direct aid but would be wary of opening the floodgates.

In the UK, the Russian owners of British commercial vehicle manufacturer LDV on Monday asked the government for a loan of up to 30 million pounds ($43.6 million) to save it from collapse, chairman of LDV's parent company GAZ said.

Meanwhile in Asia, Honda shares ended 3.8 percent lower at 2,160 yen after it said Chief Executive Takeo Fukui would be replaced by Senior Managing Director Takanobu Ito.

Toyota Motor Co. <7203.T> plans to cut parent-only global automobile production by 20 percent in 2009 to 6.5 million units as demand plunges, the Nikkei business daily said on Monday.

($1=8.645 Swedish Crown)

(Reporting by Brian Rohan, Frank McGurty, David Ljunggren, John Bowker, Jan Schwartz, Chang-Ran Kim)