By on October 30, 2012

We have documented how GM and Opel have a hard time separating themselves from the Bochum plant, something that is urgently necessary to address Opel’s dangerous overcapacity. The date to close the plant is being kicked more and more down the road and well past the use-by date of the current and some future Opel CEOs. Currently, it looks like Bochum and gaping wounds will stay open through 2017. Or maybe longer …

GM, Opel and the state of North Rhine-Westphalia started a working group with a noble cause: Create jobs in the region around the Bochum plant. Or rather “work streams on future utilization of the Bochum site.” Said GM Vice Chairman Steve Girsky:

“This working group will be all-inclusive, and have as members representatives of all stakeholders who wish to be involved in a positive way for the benefit of our employees and all the citizens of Bochum and NRW. We look forward to contributing our efforts, as well as our financial resources, to this important work.”

If the intent is to lure well paid Opel workers away from Bochum where they will get a few hundred thousand dollars in severance if they sit it out until the bitter end, then good luck.

The working group has an interesting name: “Bochum Perspective 2022.” Which is probably how long it will take to close Bochum. According to current plans. Which can change.

In German auto industry circles, there was a saying: “Wenn man nicht mehr weiter weiss, gruendet man nen Arbeitskreis.” („If you don’t know what to do, launch a working group.”) It’s good to hear that this venerable philosophy is still being practiced at Opel.

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18 Comments on “Perspective 2022: Ten Years More Of Opel Losses...”


  • avatar
    dcars

    Sergio is offering to take Opel off of GM’s hands for 4 to 5 billion. Isn’t that nice of him!

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      This makes no sense, when he’s the most vocal critic of European overcapacity.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I’m not sure how much Opel/Vauxhall would be worth, but Ford only got something like $1.8 billion for Volvo after losing money on it for nearly a decade.

      I’m surprised GM/State Dept. doesn’t just lobby/bully the German gov’t or EU into helping them close the underutilized plants. Its getting to the point where these unions are going to have to be taken head on because they are sticking to their promise of 2015 at the earliest and I doubt GM can afford the continuing losses for that long in an overall weak global market.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I’m not seeing it; GM can’t afford such losses for so long.

    The way I read this story, it seems like they’re trying to slide Bochum’s auto workers into other yet-to-be-created businesses in the area.

    Here in western Pennsylvania, that transition took 5-10 years for many ex-steel workers, with great hardship in the meantime. My father was one of them. After Big Steel, he bounced from one menial job to another until he took a chance and retrained himself, converting from machinist to technical writer.

    The only way to hasten this process is for someone to pay for it (GM, as they claim they’ll help with), but you need to have a landing place for the people if it’s to go well. They can’t all become waiters.

  • avatar
    dolorean

    ‘In German auto industry circles, there was a saying: “Wenn man nicht mehr weiter weiss, gruendet man nen Arbeitskreis.” („If you don’t know what to do, launch a working group.”)’

    Can’t stop thinking about how close this is to Erwin Rommel’s stating “in Abwesenheit der Aufträge gehen etwas finden und zu töten”
    (‘in the absense of orders, go find something and kill it’).

    The Opel situation does seem to be a quadratic mess. Creating jobs in the region around the Bochum plant is a good thought, and I hope that GM, Opel and the state of North Rhine-Westphalia manage this tar-baby with the usual German efficiency. Brings another Rommel quote to mind, “nicht einen Kampf, wenn Sie nicht gewinnen, haben nichts mit dem Gewinn”, (‘don’t fight a battle if there is nothing to gain by winning’)

  • avatar
    dolorean

    @28CL, Bertel was referring to a quote from the character (and my avatar) Oddball, played by Donald Sutherland, a Sherman tank platoon leader in ‘Kelly’s Heroes’.

    I never read ‘Lost Victories’ though will give it a try. For those that love the thought of rolling your own Tiger tank over the broken sprockets of Russian T-34s, check out ‘Worldoftanks.com’. Shameless plug over.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I’ve actually recently finished a six part documentary series on Youtube you may enjoy, Rommel was part two. I thought it was very well done.

      watch?v=npS_e1y9bPY&feature=related

  • avatar
    ranwhenparked

    I know closing a plant in Germany is expensive, but is it really cheaper to just run the whole company in the red for basically two decades straight? They’ve lost $16 billion on Opel in the past decade (with a decent economy for most of that period), how much more are they going to lose by 2022, considering we’re still in the midst of a recession?

    What would it cost to just buy off all the workers and shut Bochum? $1 billion, $2 billion? Seems like quite the bargain against $16 billion.

    There has to be some other angle here that GM’s playing that isn’t immediately obvious, because this doesn’t seem like a smart move for anybody.

    • 0 avatar

      “There has to be some other angle here that GM’s playing that isn’t immediately obvious, because this doesn’t seem like a smart move for anybody.”

      Yep. I’m convinced that there’s a much deeper game going on here. Whatever anyone thinks of their car-business skills, Akerson and Girsky are smart guys with big-league business savvy. They aren’t flailing, even if it looks like it.

  • avatar

    This “Arbeitskreis”/Working Group scheme, as I’ve heard today in the local radio, is primarily aimed on the target of “what do we we do without Opel producing at Bochum anymore, after the Opel Zafira production finishes in 2014, or so.

    Current ideas, as of today, are, e.g. finding ways to settle new industries in this area, as, e.g. battery producers, E-car producers.

    I appreciate the common approach of politicians and GM honchos to find ways out of the overcapacity mess. But I’m not too convinced that this will work.

    Probably, they should find a completely different approach for the Bochum problems. Why not tearing down everything GM-like and create a new industry combined of a permanent Oktoberfest plus a strong touch of St.Pauli? Given the central location of Bochum in Europe that might work better, IMHO.

    • 0 avatar
      Diewaldo

      As a German myself I strongly doubt that your plan would take off. If I want a Oktoberfest I will drive to Munich, not to Bochum. Apart from the fact that the Ruhr district has nothing to show but derelict remains of the steel industry.

      But if you ever come to Bochum in search for some entertainment, you should visit the Matrix.

      http://www.matrix-bochum.de/

  • avatar

    Way to go GM! From preliminary voting numbers it seems Obama is in for another 4 years. Bring back the auto task force and ready your check books. GM is going to be needing another bailout very soon.

    As a GM fanboi, it is getting harder by the day to make excuses for this company. The management has shown complete ineptness over the last two years. Great companies are made by taking problems head on and not putting them away for someone else to deal with. GM is run more and more like a Govt program. No surprise considering who owns them! Kudos to Ford for growing a pair.

  • avatar
    Tstag

    I suspect the reason GM is dragging it’s feet on a very expensive set of plant closures in Germany, is because they honestly hope they can sell enough cars to get these plants back to capacity. To have any hope they need some competition to go bust. PSA going under would have helped, but GM have now bought some of that so really it’s all getting self defeating.


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