GM has a huge problem in Bochum – or an unexpected opportunity. Workers at Opel’s Bochum plant yesterday refused a restructuring plan that would guarantee auto production in Bochum through 2016, and that would keep the plant making components after that. GM answered on the same day: ”Production of the Zafira Tourer and the waiver of enforced redundancy will end after 2014.” This would open the door to closing the doors in Bochum.
I have been trying to make heads or tails out of yesterday’s contradicting news about the big deal between Opel and the unions, and so does German media. So much is clear: The truth and GM’s press release about a “successful conclusion” of the negotiations with the Opel works council are miles apart. There is no deal. Unions and Management are still in negotiations, the negotiations will continue this coming week. Then, the workers have to vote. It does not look good: Bochum’s works council is dead set against the deal. It gets worse. (Read More…)
If you think that GM will get a handle on its abundant capacity problems in Europe – abandon all hope. Or rather: Postpone hope for until after 2016, or maybe later. Also, write off any expectations that Steve Girksy would successfully play hardball with German Metalworker Unions. Deadball is more likely. With the decision to move the production of Opel’s Astra volume model from Rüsselsheim to Ellesmere Port, and to shift production from Bochum to Rüsselsheim, the fate of the Bochum plant appeared to be sealed.
German unions declared war. Minutes ago, Opel works council chief Wolfgang Schäfer-Klug announced “an armistice” (Das Handelsblatt) and told German media that Opel will continue making cars in Bochum through 2016. Nobody can be fired, no plants can be closed at Opel until January 1, 2017. Even then, Bochum will remain open. (Read More…)
By Thursday, GM wants to have a definite deal with the Opel unions at least that’s the deadline Steve Girsky has set. The parties are further apart than Dems and Reps over the sequester. Steve Girsky wanted the unions to agree that Opel’s toolmaking, prototype building and central production planning will be outsourced, or moved to GM’s plant in Gliwice, Poland, Der Spiegel says. The unions are rightly horrified. (Read More…)
The popular wisdom among folks in the auto-biz of my generation (1970s) is that Buick only exists because of China. Why didn’t GM kill Buick in America and keep it in China? The answer is obvious: you can’t sell your brand on its “Americanness” if it isn’t also sold in America to Americans. Buick then is a brand hunting for a mission. It’s also a brand hunting for fresh customers that don’t remember the Century and Skylark, two abominations firmly burnt into my mind. In attempt to solve these problems Buick has ditched their badge-engineering mantra and is rolling out new products targeted at folks from the 80s and 90s. Forced induction and a manual transmission aren’t new to Buick, but the possibility of a desirable small sedan from the triple-shield is earth shattering. Have they managed it? GM tossed us a set of keys to find out.
For decades, big corporate profits were blasted as a sign of greed, especially by unions. GM changed all that. When a sheep dipped GM, free of legacy finance costs, and not paying taxes due to losses a normal company would not have been able to carry over after a bankruptcy, declared a record $7.6 billion profit in 2011, chests of GM boosters swelled with pride, as if the profits had been theirs. A year later, there is $2.7 billion less to be proud of. GM’s European millstone, Opel, continues to drag the company down. Opel’s operative losses more than doubled to $1.8 billion for all of 2012. (Read More…)
Legs of RenCen executives must be covered with black and blue marks from kicking themselves daily for not unloading Opel when the German government offered to take the sick patient off GM’s hands. A deal, financed with $6 billion courtesy of German tax payers and a little petty cash from Russian bankers would have given GM a little money and an immediate end of the huge losses at Opel. Frankly, nobody in Germany had much hope for an Opel under Magna and the Russians either, it was seen as a hospice where to wheel the sick patient until it dies in silence, a la Saab.
At the last minute, GM changed its mind. Who made the ill-fated decision? Was Akerson for keeping Opel, or for getting rid of it? (Read More…)
Opel’s new CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann isn’t officially CEO yet, and he already is facing a rebellion of his troops. Opel dealers threaten to discontinue the brand if Opel won’t withdraw a new distribution system. The dealers say the system comes from where Neumann and Opel’s sales chief Matthias Seidl come from: From Volkswagen. (Read More…)
Not to anyone’s huge surprise, the Opel Supervisory Board today confirmed former Volkswagen exec Karl-Thomas Neumann as CEO of Opel. To make the job a little more interesting, “General Motors appointed Dr. Neumann president of GM Europe and GM vice president,” as a GM communique says. It continues that Neumann “will become a member of GM’s Executive Committee and is expected to play a key role in the global leadership of GM.” (Read More…)
Uh-oh: The price of doing car business in Germany is heading up, increasing pressure especially on Opel. “Germany’s IG Metall union may push a pay claim between 5 and 6.5 percent for about 100,000 workers at VW’s six western German factories” Bernd Osterloh, head of VW’s works council told Reuters today. What does this have to do with Opel, you say? (Read More…)
Germany’s metal worker union IG Metall proposed a new plan yesterday to solve the overcapacity at Opel without undue grief on its members: The union will agree to the closure of Opel’s Bochum plant, if Opel guarantees that no hobs will be lost until 2018. Reuters takes that as a tacit warming up to the inevitable, while demanding the seemingly impossible. (Read More…)