Day 2 of the Opel rumor mill, and it keeps on grinding. Is Opel up for sale or is it not? Opel, their works council and regional governments close to the labor unions dismissed yesterday’s reports of a possible sale of Opel by GM as pure speculation. Yesterday, Opel chief Karl-Friedrich Stracke sent a letter to all employees. Today, he called an all hands meeting in Rüsselsheim and appealed to his workforce to ignore the nasty rumors. What is missing: A clear denial from Detroit. Today, Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel demanded that GM should “provide clarity regarding the future of Opel,” writes Der Stern. And the magazine adds: “GM however continues to take cover.”
Both works council chief Klaus Franz and Thomas Bieling, head of Opel’s dealer council, are looking for a clear statement from Detroit. “A letter by Mr. Stracke won’t put me at ease,” says dealer-boss Bieling. “I want a letter from Mr. Akerson. So far, there’s nothing.”
Franz wrote a letter to Merkel and asked for help. GM seems to be back to the dangerous game of ignoring the German government. The Handelsblatt reports that both Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert and Beatrix Brodkorb, spokeswoman of the Germany Ministry of Economics state that the German government is in touch with Opel, but not with GM. Ever since GM reneged on Opel, Detroit and Berlin are on cold war footing.
Even the all hands meeting in Rüsselsheim could have been better. Says the Handelsblatt: “Stracke called the reports ‘speculation,’ but he did not deny them unequivocally.”
One thing is clear: Currently, Detroit would be happier without Opel on the books and dragging the newly minted stock down. Last year, Opel did cost GM $1.76 billion in losses. In November 2010, Opel chief Reilly had expected $2 billion worth of red ink. Apparently, some of that was moved into 2011. Closing down Antwerp in 2010 did cost some $200,000 per worker. Reportedly, the colleagues in Bochum sold their skins for a little more. Severance payments of up to $360,000 will flow. In the first quarter of 2011, GM tripled its profits, Opel continued to hemorrhage.