By on February 14, 2017

Charles de Gaulle in a Citroen DS (Image: Gnotype/Flickr)

Maybe it’s leftover regional rivalry from generations past, or perhaps Germany just doesn’t want anything to affect its status as Europe’s financial powerhouse. Whatever the deep-seated reason, the residents of Deutschland are none too pleased about a possible French takeover of the Opel brand.

Earlier today, PSA Group, maker of Citroën and Peugeot vehicles, was revealed to be in serious talks to acquire the General Motors-owned automaker (as well as its Vauxhall sister company). Politicians and the head of Opel’s workers union apparently didn’t see this coming.

On the other side of the Maginot Line, the French seem just fine with the idea.

Opel operates three factories on German soil, and regardless of who owns Opel in the future, the country wants those plants to stay put.

German Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries was particularly steamed, calling it “unacceptable” that GM discussed selling its European subsidiary without contacting the German government and local players.

“The company carries responsibility for the sites, the development center and the securing of employment,” she said today. “This is my clear expectation regarding General Motors.”

Opel’s works council and the powerful IG Metall labor union blasted GM over the talks. The two groups issued a joint statement, claiming that discussions with PSA held without their permission amounted to “an unprecedented violation of all German and European co-determination rights.”

A local government representative questioned whether there was a political reason behind GM’s desire to drop the unprofitable automaker. Volker Bouffier, prime minister of Hesse, the state in which Opel has its headquarters, mulled “it could also be that General Motors, with respect to the vision of the new American president, has decided to concentrate more on America and less on Europe.”

France, on the other hand, is eyeing the news closely but not getting bent out of shape about anything. As a 14-percent stakeholder in PSA Group, which it bailed out just a handful of years ago, France would like to see its automotive industry reach “critical mass,” an economy ministry source told Reuters.

The same source said France would “give special attention to the impact in terms of jobs and the industrial impact of these initiatives.”

Under the direction of CEO Mary Barra, GM has been on a profitability kick. Unfortunately, Opel and Vauxhall have resisted emerging from red ink, and the lower British pound — and just perhaps, the possibility of boosted tariffs — provide a further incentive to dump the two companies.

[Source: Automotive News, Reuters] [Image: Image: Gnotype/Flickr (CC BY-SA 3.0)]

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47 Comments on “Possible French Takeover of Opel Ruffles German Feathers...”


  • avatar
    Garrett

    If people are pro-EU, why would it matter which EU member buys Opel?

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Its only ruffled the German auto workers.

    If the German auto workers are smart they would pipe down.

    With Brexit I would assume Germany would get a better deal.

    The German auto workers need to realise GM has too much capacity. Where will the money come from for their jobs? The taxpayer?

    France rationalised its auto manufacturing better than the Germans, so GM and the German auto workers now will pay the price with the British.

    • 0 avatar
      Garrett

      I suspect that they would not have been upset if Daimler, BMW or Volkswagen wanted to acquire Opel.

      Wonder if Vauxhall is included in the deal as well.

      • 0 avatar
        CarDesigner

        Too bad Chrysler didn’t buy it. They could return the favor the high command pillaged them for years then gutted them! But big German egos would never allow that, and Italian egos don’t want much to do with the Germans… :-)

        • 0 avatar
          RobertRyan

          @CarDesigner
          If FCA tried to do that, they would be worse off than they are now. Anyway it would have been FIAT, trying to buy it and Sergio would not be interested

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        @Garrett
        It would.have to be. A case of GM shrinking globally.,Corporation is now the 4th largest Automaker.

      • 0 avatar
        Ermel

        @Garrett
        But the Daimler, BMW, or Volkswagen fans would not have been happy with that. Opel (and, to a lesser degree perhaps, Ford) are not seen as premier league German automakers here.

        • 0 avatar
          Garrett

          Having logged thousands of kilometers in an Opel Astra in Germany, I got to experience a unique hell. It was like being at an all you could eat buffet, but with your jaw wired shut.

        • 0 avatar
          RobertRyan

          @Ermel
          Both rate very badly on build quality. Ford will probably disappear later as well

          • 0 avatar
            Eyeflyistheeye

            Ford made a $10,600,000,000 pre-tax profit in Europe in 2016. They have been the leading carmaker in the United Kingdom for 42 years. Of course, the Germans don’t consider them their own like they do VW or Mercedes, but they’re doing something right unlike GM.

            But I’m sure your rubbish opinion only comes from the fact that Ford Europe is the European division of an American company.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            Your numbers are inaccurate. Way to high for Ford’s global profit.

            Ford’s global pre tax profit halved in 2016.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al From 'Murica

            Yes Al, he added an extra zero in there, but still Ford’s operations in Europe produced a profit in excess of 1 Billion dollars. GM hasn’t been profitable in Europe in years and Opel has lost 15 billion since 2000. The 2 companies are not in anywhere near the same shape in Europe.

  • avatar

    I have a feeling the German government isn’t going to let this happen. This is not going happen in a matter of days, but will be drawn out for months. Maybe Barra is using this as a motation techic to force Opel to become more profitable.

  • avatar
    RobertRyan

    @Ermel
    Very good move for Opel, it has been floundering under the current GM yoke. PSA is on a mission, should be interesting to see what happens

  • avatar
    1998redwagon

    i believe vauxhal is involved as part of the sale too.

    does anyone else read psa and think of prostate health or is it just that i am entering old fart age?

    if germans do not like it i assume they could make a counter offer. but who would take kleiner opel? and vauxhal?

    psa is a logical choice. and it seems they have the $

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Unless French quality has improved dramatically over what it was in the past this is a step down for Opel. Might be better for Opel to be acquired by a Chinese or an Indian manufacturer. At least Volvo, Land Rover, and Jaguar seem to be doing much better under Chinese and Indian ownership. I understand why GM is shedding themselves of Opel and GM probably doesn’t care who buys them so long as they divest themselves of Opel. As for the Opel platforms that Buick is using they are not that bad, but Buick has more of a Chinese market and the Envision is made in China. Many criticize GM but if anything the quality of GM products has improved and many of the newer redesigned products are much better than the ones they replaced. Sure GM is not perfect but GM has come a long way from its previous self. The new Colorado/Canyon are definitely improved over their predecessors and the new Impala and Malibu is much improved. I looked at the new Envision at the Cincinnati Auto Expo and it is a nice and well appointed vehicle even though some think that since it is made in China it must not be any good.

  • avatar
    ydnas7

    this will proceed, Germany can’t stop PSA from buying, unless they bid more.

    GM is effectively withdrawing from the world’s LHD countries, obviously Japan, but also UK, Australia, India, Indonesia, Thailand etc. so that’s perhaps 20% of the world, expect GM to fall behind both RenaultNissan and HyundaiKia in global volume this year.

    So while Australia will continue to get GM vehicles, goodluck finding anyone in GM to design it apart from a Chevy badged Thai ute.

    RIP Holden

    • 0 avatar
      OldManPants

      “GM is effectively withdrawing from the world’s LHD countries”

      LHD/RHD are needlessly confusing re which side of road vs which side of car. I like links fahren oder rechts fahren.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      @ydnas7
      We call US vehicles LHD,any of the countries mentioned RHD. GM is in free fall under Barra, it will really sink.
      Holden? Good question. At least Ford is investing a lot of money into engineering here.

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    Oh, how I’d love to get Clarkson drunk and hear him go off on THIS story.

  • avatar
    Whatnext

    Sad to watch GM constantly retreat. Who will engineer its midsize cars now, China? How the mighty have fallen.

    • 0 avatar

      There should now be a GM market share death watch. Every year we can try to predict what car company will surpass GM in market share. I always believed that GM’s US market share would eventually drop down to 15%. With Barra’s mad dash for profits there is not telling how low GM’s market share will go. I believe it is just a matter of time until either Ford or Toyota surpasses GM in US market share.

      It is not going to end well for Mary Barra.

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        @akear
        Barra is pretty bad. I would say Toyota will eventually go past Ford and GM, then the average public will realise something is terribly wrong

      • 0 avatar
        dash riprock

        You watch market share, I will watch profitability. For years GM chased market share and it ended in tears. They have become a much more disciplined organization post BK. They have the balance sheet and eps to show it now. I will much prefer owning a stake(or being an employee) of an organization that is driven to be very profitable than one chasing a market share.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      By the time the current platforms are fully amortized, midsize sedans may be as much of an engineering priority as cargo vans.

  • avatar

    The fifth paragraph.

    German Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries was particularly steamed, calling it “unacceptable” that GM discussed selling its European subsidiary without contacting the German government and local players.

    If they did not go behind his back would he be as angry? I am not sure, but now he is going to try to block it. Remember, the Germans are far more protective of their industries than America is. This issue maybe dead by the end of the month.

  • avatar
    ExPatBrit

    If I were a Vauxhall employee I wouldn’t be that keen on this.

    PSA tried this once, bought out Chrysler Europe in 1979.

    UK operations were closed up by 2006.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Love the photo of “Le Grand Charles” in a Citroen DS! I think the rationale is that there’s too much auto production capacity in Europe, and GM doesn’t want to attempt to beat other European players on status, prestige or whatever. Lord knows, Europe is not the low-cost producer of cars, so that option is tightly foreclosed. And Germany, with its expensive “green energy” is the worst of the bunch.
    So, this is about German workers’ jobs. Of course these plants will be closed, by any company who buys them.

    Germany’s mercantilist economy survives only by virtue of the EU, which prevents currency adjustments by other EU members in response to huge trade imbalances. Of course, we all know that Greeks, Italians, Spaniards, Portuguese and Irish are lazy, right? That’s the real problem. ;-)

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @Robert Ryan–I don’t think the French will ever be known for high quality vehicles. Yes to French wine, cheese, and clothing designs. Also French unions will not make these vehicles competitive unless they produce them in a low cost labor market. Neither does German labor. I would say this merger will eventually lead to the end of Opel but maybe that is not entirely a bad thing.


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