Ever since Steve Girsky an his “merry band of hatchet men” touched down in Rüsselsheim, Bertel has been warning that GM’s European division was about to embark on a serious cutting binge. But our worst fears, namely that Opel could go away entirely, have yet to be realized. Instead it seems that self-destructive mutilation will be attempted first, in order to stem the gushing red ink at Opel where at least €1b in losses are expected next year. Automotive News Europe [sub] reports that the first round of cuts will hit Opel’s Internationalen Technischen Entwicklungszentrum (ITEZ, “International Technical Development Center), as an IG Metall union document foresees some 1,420 product development position cuts (from a staff of some 6,000).
With the world starting to gain stability economically and economists talking about “bull markets” you’d be forgiven for thinking we can start to be optimistic and why not? Ford are flying high, GM (prodded by the government) are adding third shifts and Chrysler’s sales “only” dropped 3.7% in December. Well, don’t be too sure. CNN Money reports that a survey conducted by KPMG of 200 auto and supplier executive showed that 88% of them believe there is still too much capacity in North American plants. In fact, the survey showed that the executives believe that overcapacity is a bigger problem today than a year ago and when you look at the figures, it’s a bit of a no brainer.
General Motors made one point very clear, 100 percent clear, the restructuring plan could only be achieved when European member states with Opel plants give some financial help. So the plan works only with state aid. The idea that General Motors can finance this on its own was not shared by General Motors, this possibility does unfortunately not exist
EU Industry Minister Guenter Verheugen reveals to Automotive News [sub] that GM does indeed seem to be trying to limit the amount of US taxpayer money spent on its $4.9b rescue of Opel. GM’s Opel fixer Nick Reilly explains “we have indicated that we will inject some GM funds into that requirement too. That is quite difficult because we are also going through a restructuring of our U.S. operations and other parts of the world.” We’ve already seen loans for jobs floated in the UK, where Reilly came up just short of offering to save Vauxhall jobs for government restructuring loans on a quid-pro-quo basis. And GM will have to continue walking that fine line, as EU competition rules forbid member states from offering financial support in exchange for jobs, especially if the saved jobs come at the expense of jobs in another EU member state. But Germany’s leadership was humiliated by GM’s decision to drop the sale of Opel to Magna, and has already ruled out funding an Opel restructuring that would keep the automaker under GM control. Will Belgium, Spain and the UK be able to come up with enough money to make the restructuring happen? Or will GM simply be forced to dip deeper into its taxpayer-funded escrow account? GM’s plan will be announced this week, and we’ll be watching.