By on July 16, 2012

The summary execution of Opel chief  Karl-Friedrich Stracke, and the mess this has created, is front page material in the German press today. The fingers point in the direction of Detroit. Detroit has no clear strategy and changes directions like soiled underwear. The fingers also point at an impulsive Dan Akerson who is out of his depth.

According to Germany’s Handelsblatt, the firing of Opel chief Karl-Friedrich Stracke went down like this:

“GM boss Akerson arrived on a flash visit in Rüsselsheim and had a look at the latest numbers. When he found a deficit in the three digit millions in the business plans, he blew a gasket. The impulsive CEO fired Stracke out of hand – and left a mess in Rüsselsheim.”

The paper calls the reaction “as thoughtless as it its typical for the former Navy officer Akerson.”

The German edition of Financial Times says that “it signals everything else than hope when the cost cutter is fired in the middle of the cost cutting.”

The usually well-informed Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung opines: “It doesn’t improve matters when continuously new disturbances are caused in the company. It demotivates the staff and does not make for better sales.”

The GM stock is at an all-time low. If you bought the stock at the IPO, you are $15 under water. The market is worried about the never-ending losses in Europe. GM’s main sponsor Obama is up for re-election, and should he lose, there will be a big backlash in Detroit. This puts pressure on Akerson, and he seems to be cracking under pressure. And what is a panicking Akerson to do? There probably isn’t a single day where Akerson does not loathe Fritz Henderson who changed his mind on selling Opel after the deal was done. The bigger the stress, the more palatable the solution to dump Opel and get it over with. Reuters cites the former GE boss Jack Welch, who once said that if a company didn’t measure up, the only options were to “fix it, sell it, or close it”.

Reuters says today that GM is only a “step away from giving up on Opel for good.” Reuters cites Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, Germany’s talking head for automotive matters, who said:

“The worst is that GM frequently changes course. Until yesterday the strategy was to guarantee jobs through 2016, today it is making cuts and closing plants as quickly as possible. This will be the last such attempt under Akerson and since GM couldn’t sell Opel last time, they will just wind it down if they can’t fix it.”

“Opel’s problems won’t be solved by managing it on the basis of quarterly results. Either the owner adopts a long term strategy and sticks to that plan or it looks pretty damn bleak for the brand in the future,” Andreas Halin, Managing Partner of GlobalMind Executive Search Consultants in Frankfurt and an expert on corporate management, told Reuters.

Reuters thinks that Opel workers will quickly find a job elsewhere. A headhunter told the wire service:

I know that the other German manufacturers are wringing their hands looking for qualified workers. I am sure Opel employees would be open to being poached by a competitor and if I worked at Opel – whether I was a manager, engineer or assembly line worker – I would immediately send my application to Volkswagen or BMW.”

To the apologists who say it is all the European market’s fault, and not so bad after all, the Handelsblatt has this advice:

“Other makers such as Fiat, Ford, or Peugeot suffer from the weak market. However, no automaker is navigating such a crash course as GM. The decline of Opel was not caused by the crisis of the market alone. It was also caused by a management malfunction. “

The Handelsblatt did award Dan Akerson the “Pinoccio of the Day” for saying: “We appreciate Karl’s many contributions to GM’s success.”

 

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14 Comments on “German Media Writes Opel Eulogy, Blames Thoughtless Akerson...”


  • avatar
    The Doctor

    Opel’s problem is that its current line-up is about as appealing as used lavatory paper. They’ve relied on fleet buyers for too long and the only model that a private buyer would prefer to the equivalent Ford or VW is the Zafira.

    • 0 avatar
      european

      simply not true.

      i’ve seen a new ash-grey opel astra gtc yesterday. seductive curves. nothing comes close. not a golf, not a focus. not even the frenchies.

      btw, you all might mock Silvy, but the dude is right. ford needs to burn and go away. the focus is hideous. no wonder they can’t sell it.

      • 0 avatar
        Chocolatedeath

        “btw, you all might mock Silvy, but the dude is right. ford needs to burn and go away. the focus is hideous. no wonder they can’t sell it.”

        So are you talking about Euro or American numbers. Could you just show me both compared to its competition. I am curious to know how how they stack up with real data.

    • 0 avatar
      Athos Nobile

      I have seen both the Insignia and the current (new) Astra and the last thing I thought about was lavatory paper. Instead, some vehicles from the Auto del Pueblo brand would benefit from some interesting styling.

      • 0 avatar
        The Doctor

        Tired maxims about how deep beauty is could have been written for Opel’s current range. The last model that handled and rode well was the Speedster and that wasn’t even a proper Opel.

      • 0 avatar
        Athos Nobile

        I am speaking from what I’ve seen in the street. Sadly I haven’t had the opportunity to drive either.

        The current Focus looks very good, and even so, I don´t like it. The side view proportions are off.

        They’re about to start selling them soon here, and the Astra and Corsa are still estimated models.

  • avatar
    dejal1

    “I know that the other German manufacturers are wringing their hands looking for qualified workers. I am sure Opel employees would be open to being poached by a competitor and if I worked at Opel – whether I was a manager, engineer or assembly line worker – I would immediately send my application to Volkswagen or BMW.”

    GM looks to be losing about the same amount of money that it would take to close Opel. To close Opel only hurts once and doesn’t cost anything after that.

    Other than the hit of the poison pill GM has to take, everyone will be happier once Opel folder. GM washes their hands of it and gets to focus on what is left, the workers get a golden parachute and then get great jobs somewhere else. A win for everyone.

  • avatar
    wmba

    “There probably isn’t a single day where Akerson does not loathe Fritz Henderson who changed his mind on selling Opel after the deal was done.”

    Surely, that would be another error on Akerson’s part. Big Ed Whitacre overruled Fritz, as you reported at the time, and made Chancellor Merkel an enemy by his oafishness.

    I’ve mentioned it before — Germany is a tough place to declare bankruptcy. It’s not like most countries, at all. Google it and you can figure out why GM/Opel is in such a bind.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t see why insolvency should be so complicated. Declaring insolvency was contemplated in 2009 and was deemed conceivable. Today, it is even more so. Of course there are differences to the U.S. law. To operate the company under chapter 11 is pretty much impossible. Also, the company won’t be whitewashed. In most cases, it is the end of the company unless the administrator can sell all or some.

      In any case, the officers of Opel AG must declare insolvency when they cannot pay bills anymore. They won’t be able to pay bills if Detroit won’t send money. Maybe Victor Muller is interested …

      PS: In an AG, any director, and any member of the supervisory board can declare. That means the unions also …

      • 0 avatar
        MeaCulpa

        Well any member of the board(s?) could FILE for bankruptcy, a court would have to declare the actual bankruptcy. Are they really insolvent in the sense that they are unable to pay their debts as they fall due? If not I’d imagine that the person filing for insolvency could incur some sort of responsibility.

  • avatar
    threeer

    What does Akerson having been in the Navy have to do when any of this? That just seems spiteful for the sake of it.

    I do hope Opel survives…I have a soft spot for the maker. When we lived in Germany from 1970-1986 (and then after my father returned from 1989 until his death in 1997) that’s all he owned. I guess not all former American servicemembers are bad for Opel.

  • avatar
    oboylepr

    What does Akerson having been in the Navy have to do when any of this? That just seems spiteful for the sake of it.

    Probably has to do with how Americans are percieved in Germany by some and in particular, those from a military/command background. Not necessarily spiteful but certainly betraying a level of frustration and annoyance.

    Time for DW 2!
    It seems that not enough has changed and the new GM = old GM

  • avatar
    albert

    To all of those going for a bankruptcy of Opel (not Vauxhall?): closing down Opel will mean that Chevrolets and Buicks will get more expensive to build (lower volumes of the platform).
    Even when GM maintains the engineering centre in Ruesselsheim that will be no help, because all the engineers still left will run like hell to the competition. And who, I ask you, will then do the engineering for nearly all the passenger car platforms? (Gamma, Delta, Epsilon).
    In no time GM will fall back on their old habits of trying to be as cheap as possible and then even the Americans will no longer want a Chevrolet or Buick. end of story then.

    The problem of Opel is – at this moment – not in their cars. Yes, they are heavy, yes the bodies are bloated, but the quality is there again. Some of the engines are a bit dated (no DI), but fuel consumption is OK. New engines next MY will bring more modern engines.
    The real problem of Opel is in their image. At the moment is says LOSER all over the place. And nobody is buying a car from a company with an image like that. That is why the happenings of this week are so disastrous for Opel. GM is acting stupid. Set a course, stick to it and bring the money when necessary.

    P.S.: yes, GM Europe lost an awful lot of money in the last decade, but there were times when the money from Europe saved the North American part of GM.


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