Last year, GM’s German patient, Opel, hemorrhaged $1.6 billion. It could easily have been twice than that, if Nick Reilly had fired the more than 8,000 workers that are on Opel’s endangered species list. Letting people go can get very expensive in Europe if you are a going concern. The only factory that was closed was Antwerp, to the tune of $532 million. That came to a little bit over $200,000 per worker. Reilly didn’t want to rain on the IPO roadshow, and moved the mass firings to this year. GM’s thank you: Reilly was fired. (Read More…)
Opel has received a new lease on life. Nobody knows how long the lease will last, but Opel is an important step ahead and gained an even more important ally in its beggathon for state aid. Opel cut a deal with its unions, led by labor leader Klaus Franz.
“For much of the past year, Klaus Franz has been a thorn in General Motors Co.’s side,” wrote the Wall Street Journal. Franz “has blamed the European car unit’s troubles on its American parent, saying GM was ‘filled with yes-men’ and that it had a ‘centralized planning system worse than in East Germany.’ Now, GM needs to make nice with Mr. Franz.” With their backs to the wall, GM finally paid the price and made nice. (Read More…)
Opels head shop steward Klaus Franz is mightily mad at Opel’s CEO Nick Reilly. Reilly told the London Times that the Ampera, Opel’s counterpart to the Volt, may be built in the Ellesmere Port plant in the UK:“The chances are quite good that the Ampera will come to Ellesmere Port as it is close in production terms to the Astra and will share many components,” Reilly said. In the meantime, Berlin cues Roberta Flack’s “Killing me softly” as a prelude for Opel’s funeral. (Read More…)
Every evening and every morning, and times in-between, Nick Reilly wonders why he exchanged his cushy job as Shanghai-based chief of GM’s international operations with the purgatory of heading Opel in Rüsselsheim. This Tuesday morning, he woke up to more news from hell:
An unholy alliance of the center-right German government and the supposedly left-leaning unions told him that his turn-around plan for Opel is rotten, and if GM doesn’t cough up €1.65b, there won’t be a cent in government money. (Read More…)
Opel’s Nick Reilly is casting worried glances towards Berlin and Brussels. What he hears from there makes him double his Maalox dosage. Or pop some local Rennies, if the heartburn meds are in short supply at the Apotheke in Rüsselsheim. Which they undoubtedly are. Nobody wants to help Reilly. Berlin doesn’t want to. Brussels doesn’t want to. Even Opel’s own auditors are no help. This tale would be better told by Kafka. He’s dead. I’ll try. (Read More…)
Here are the first reactions to Nick Reilly’s turn-around and begging plan for Opel. In one word: “Booooh!”
Roland Koch, Premier of Hesse, where Opel has its headquarters, where most of Opel’s jobs and countless suppliers are, should be most interested in the survival. What was his reaction? “According to our first assessment, it will be necessary that GM as the owner will increase its contribution considerably,” he said to Das Autohaus. Translation: “Put money on the table. Then we talk.”
Little know factoid: In 2008, Opel was the 7th largest employer in Hesse, followed by Volkswagen, only 2,800 jobs behind Opel, most in a parts factory and distribution center in structurally weak Kassel. When Opel has finished its reduction in force plan, VW will provide more jobs to the state than Opel. Koch knows which side his bread is buttered.
The unions, which should be most interested in preserving jobs, immediately shot down the plan. (Read More…)
Opel is running out of time and out of money. In the second quarter of 2010, the company will be out of cash again, figures the German Handelsblatt. As indicated yesterday, discussions with the unions are going nowhere. Says the Handelsblatt:”Management is preparing for a breakdown of the talks.” Reilly and his crew are trying to find ways how to get Opel going without wage concessions by the unions. But how? (Read More…)
The German paper Rheinische Post runs an interesting op-ed piece today. Headlined: “Opel fights its demise,” the article concludes that Opel most likely won’t make it:
Opel CEO Nick Reilly is facing a dilemma. Even before the outbreak of the economic crisis, Opel was confronted with an overcapacity of 20 percent. The Abwrackprämie being behind us, sales will crater. This creates extra pressure to eliminate more jobs. If Reilly implements his restructuring program, then he will have to fight the opposition of the workers. For once, it is easy to put a number to this: €265m a year. The workers wanted to forgo this sum – if Reilly won’t shut down any plants. Now Reilly is €265m short – and has to cut more jobs. At that point, the governments, on who’s support Reilly counts, will call it quits. Whether Opel is kept alive with tax money, with funds from the parent, or with money from the workforce: an artificial respiration of a company is ultimately more expensive than anticipated. And it is almost never successful.
GM’s interimitis is turning into a chronic disease. First, Whitacre becomes interim replacement of Henderson, and is in no hurry to give up the job. Then, in November 2009. Nick Reilly becomes interim head of GM Europe while GM is supposedly searching for a replacement of Carl-Peter Forster. In December 2009, the interim boss was installed as permanent chief of GM Europe. Now, Reilly will be named permanent CEO of Opel, writes the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
Nick Reilly, head of Opel, or rather General Motors Europe, which supposedly doesn’t exist anymore, wants to be Superman.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Reilly said that Opel should shoot for an operating profit margin of 4-5 percent within four years, if not earlier.
In the world according to Reilly, Opel will perform like this: Opel will face “another tough” year in 2010, when Europe goes on C4C withdrawal. Reilly sees Opel to break even by 2011 and make a “decent” profit from 2012.
Says Reilly: “If we are successful we should be at least 4-5 percent. Four to five per cent gives a good return on investment and capital … It shouldn’t take more than four years.”
Industry insiders think Reilly is hallucinating.
What is the future of Opel? Here is the version of GM Europe’s interim-turned-permanent chief Nick Reilly. He gave an interview to Germany’s auto motor und sport magazine. (Interview in the print edition, not available on-line.)
Of course, Opel according to Reilly will aggressively gain market share: “We are confident that we can not only maintain but also expand our market share in Europe.”
Opel currently holds a 6.5 percent share of Europe. Reilly wants to see that to “rise to 10 percent and beyond in the medium range.” And how will that come to pass?
GM’s new European Viceroy, Nick Reilly, surprised and astonished the participants of a Saturday conference call by saying that German aid, or no German aid to Opel, “it won’t make any difference to our restructuring plan, so it will not lead to more layoffs in Germany or less layoffs.”
Now what’s that all about? Wasn’t the line before “you either pay us, or you pay unemployment benefits, anyway, you’ll pay?”