Russia sees the expertise of German auto maker Opel as its chance for a technological breakthrough in its ailing car industry, a top Russian government official said on Saturday.


Last week Russia's state-controlled Sberbank (SBER03.MM) agreed to take a 35 percent stake in GM's (GM.N) Opel in a deal led by Canadian autoparts maker Magna (MGa.TO). Russian car maker GAZ (GAZA.RTS) will act as Opel's industrial partner.


Russia's business logic in the deal has remained a mystery, and investors in Sberbank have been fretting over how the stake could be managed by the Russian side, and in whose interests.


Russia's First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov said on Saturday that the state intends to make use of Opel know-how.


Opel is famous for its plentiful know-how... The goal (of the deal) is, on the base of its know-how and the possibilities Russia has, to create new know-how and to use it as a base to take a leap into the future, Shuvalov told reporters.


Russia has long been seeking ways to bring state of the art technology to its car industry, which is suffering from the credit crunch and struggling to compete with foreign makes.


Sberbank will also pay 65 million euros ($92.1 million) for GM's assembly plant in St Petersburg, RIA news agency quoted a Sberbank source as saying on Saturday.


On Thursday, the head of Sberbank, German Gref, said his bank would pass its 35 percent stake in Germany's Opel to a Russian strategic investor.


Many analysts have said the stake could end up with GAZ, controlled by Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska, which is playing the role of an industrial partner in the Sberbank-Magna's Opel deal. Others say it could eventually go to state conglomerate Russian Technologies.


Shuvalov shed no light on the future of the Sberbank stake, but said that the government had not pushed the bank to strike the deal.


We in the government knew (about the preparation to the deal), we constantly discussed it with Sberbank but didn't pressure them, he said.