Both Der Spiegel and Auto Bild write that GM could throw in the towel on Opel and will put the loss making European division up for sale. Both papers are known to have high-ranking inside sources, both in Wolfsburg and in Berlin.
Auto-Bild: “GM is slowly wising up to the fact that the reasons that led to the planned Opel sale in 2009 have not changed.”
According to the paper, the German government has picked up indications that GM wants to sell Opel to unnamed parties in China. (Any guesses? Who’s building cars in China on Opel platforms?)
Now, says Auto-Bild, Berlin is worried about the yellow peril and turned to Volkswagen for help.
UPDATE: Reuters reports
“Akerson is fed up with Opel, and the turnaround isn’t gaining traction,” said a person familiar with the GM CEO’s thinking who declined to be named.
“He is trying to think of all possibilities to improve performance. But a sale is wishful thinking.”
Volkswagen is sitting on an €20 billion cash pile and could do the job quite easily. Now, Volkswagen has also interests in China, amongst them a joint venture with the same company that uses Opel platforms: SAIC.
Volkswagen declined to comment on the reports, which is always interesting.
Rainer Einenkel, head of the works council in Bochum said that Opel is doing fine. “Some people don’t like that. They try to disrupt our business with harassing fire and to unsettle our workforce.”
Klaus Franz, head of the works council of Opel said that news of a sale of Opel are “pure speculation” and appealed to GM to deny the rumors.
“GM remains silent,” writes Reuters Germany. “No comment from the HQ. The works council is missing a clear denial from the mother company.” [UPDATE: The AP [via Forbes] reports: Opel CEO Karl-Friedrich Stracke told employees in an internal letter viewed by The Associated Press not to let themselves be distracted by “rumors” and “speculation in the press.”]
Der Spiegel heard that “GM managers are increasingly frustrated that Opel continues to have losses while other regions show profits. The executives are said to be convinced that the mother ship is no longer dependant on Opel. Economic engines and platforms can also be obtained from GM Korea.”
According to Der Spiegel, VW had already studied how Opel could fit into the empire when Opel was up for sale two years ago. Auto Bild now hears from VW executives that Volkswagen’s new kit architecture could be used to sell Opel cars at an attractive price.
However, says Auto Bild, Volkswagen wants to stay in the shadows for the time being. This might change, says the paper “when Opel turns into a political issue, if Berlin needs a white knight, which can prevent the hemorrhaging of German technology and the concomitant loss of jobs with a German-German solution.”
Update: Reuters called on all its sources “familiar with the U.S. automaker.” The deep throats told Reuters that “selling Opel was not realistic, playing down reports by two German magazines that the sale option was being explored again. However, the sources added Chief Executive Daniel Akerson is clearly frustrated with Opel’s inability to return to profitability.” A person close to Aklerson told Reuters that the boss “is fed up with Opel, and the turnaround isn’t gaining traction.” Anopther source told Reuters that GM may instead try to establish an alliance with another European automaker as a way to cut costs. “A Chinese partner also could be an option.”
This doesn’t sound like idle gossip on the Berlin cocktail circuit. Something is in the bush.
2nd Update: TTAC’s Speculatius Maximus goes to Harald Hamprecht, Editor-in-Chief of Automotive News Europe, who points fingers at Dan Akerson:
“It’s time for a clear denial that Opel is for sale from Akerson himself. But maybe he still wants to wait. After all, fear of losing your job could easily make OpelVauxhall employees work even harder, instead of thinking they are out of the woods.”