When Opel needed a a low-cost subcompact for the European market, it did what all good car companies do: rebadged a Suzuki. And thus, the Opel Agila was born. For the latest version of the Agila, which debuted in 2008, Opel opted to let Suzuki build the car itself at its Hungarian plant (alongside the Suzuki SX4 and Fiat Seidici). It also tasked its Managing Director, a man known around the office as “Mr Opel,” with developing the new micro-MPV in partnership with Suzuki. For his trouble, Mr Opel (aka Hans Demant) was then shunted aside by GM, and ended up being poached by VW to head up “international project coordination.” Quite by coincidence (or not), VW’s biggest international project is in building new low-cost small cars with… Suzuki. Automotive News [sub]’s Paul McVeigh notes that
Neither GM or Opel has commented publicly on Demant’s defection to archrivals VW. But executives are said to be very angry in private.
But then, GM could hardly have expected Demant to stick around after having been shuffled off to “intellectual property protection” after nearly 40 years of service to Opel at some of the highest levels. The fact that he’d just been demoted at a time when Opel’s owners in the RenCen were enjoying record-low popularity in Germany made the move all the more likely. And because it’s happened at a time that Opel is struggling for its life makes the move just as damaging to GM as it is a windfall for VW.