While in Detroit the leaking remains limited to gossip and innuendo, Opel in Germany sprung a Deepwater Horizon–sized leak that could pollute the political landscape for years. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung says it is in possession of something that is regarded as part of the crown jewels of a car company: The long-term production plan through the next decade. It’s bad enough that a paper publishes closely guarded secrets – their publication could blow-up the plan.
The usually restrained Frankfurt paper calls the content of the document “explosive,” and says it could trigger political consequences. Which makes the leaking doubly interesting.
Says the FAZ:
“The document marked CONFIDENTIAL, dated late June 2012, lists all model starts and production sites within the Europe business of GM for the Opel and Chevrolet brands. The list goes until the year 2020.”
The explosive part involves GM’s new 7 percent partner Peugeot-Citroen. Production of high-profile PSA models are supposed to be moved to Opel Rüsselsheim, among them the legendary Citroen DS5 (in French revered as the „déesse“, the goddess) , followed by the midsized Peugeot 508. As a partial make-good, PSA would get the production of the Zafira.
Putting the Peugeot and the Citroen on an Insignia platform, and building all of them in Rüsselsheim, would bring the desired scale effects – for Rüsselsheim. Opel’s ancestral home could work three shifts and produce up to 320,000 units per year. Currently, Opel workers in Rüsselsheim work four days a week and take three days off. According to published plans, the compact Astra will leave Rüsselsheim, leaving only the Insignia with only 140,000 units behind – unless it becomes French company.
In France, the move will cost more jobs if it is supposed to save money. PSA would have 140,000 DS5 and 508 made in Germany, and would receive some 100,000 Zafira. This could close the PSA plant in Rennes where the 508 amounts to two-thirds of the total production.
The Frankfurt paper expects this will create political turmoil in France. Smaller job cuts already caused political turbulences with the new socialist government. On a personal level, there is the matter of the new French president Francois Hollande famously being driven in a DS5 Hybrid.
The publication of the paper, says the FAZ, hits “raw nerves” at PSA and GM, where people are “worried that the premature disclosure of the plans could torpedo plans that are the core of the cost reduction plans.” This is why the conservative paper, which traditionally keeps reliable lines of communications to the union brass in Frankfurt, most likely has been brought in possession of the document. By unleashing the wrath of the French government, the plans will be brought down.
Some other tidbits the FAZ pulled from the production plan:
- Expansion of the production capacity in St. Petersburg, Russia, possibly a new plant by 2018.
- Possibly a shift of the Opel Mokka crossover from Korea to Germany. If to Bochum, the plant could stay open.
- A new segment called “Country Tourer,” based on the Insignia (Opel Shooting Brake?) It would be built in Bochum.
- Opel’s Eisenach plant endangered: The confidential document lists no new model starts for Eisenach, where the city car Adam is made.
An Opel spokesman called the content of the document “a grab-bag of speculations and lies.” The regional boss of the metal workers union I.G. Metall had confirmed to the FAZ: “This scenario exists, it is being negotiated with the French.”
It is not in the interest of the unions or the left-wing French government that this scenario becomes reality.