Bailout Watch, German Edition, Fnf: A Summit Without Sums

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
bailout watch german edition fnf a summit without sums

While managers and union leaders of Opel and GM-Europe had a crisis summit with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her ministers at the Kanzleramt, the drumbeat of “disentanglement” of Opel from GM picked up a steady rhythm. On Saturday, it was just whispers being picked up by TTAC from German contacts. On Sunday, it was press reports that openly discussed to jettison the Opel lifeboat from the sinking mothership. Today, everybody says it was their idea. Even Opel managers, who were just privately grumbling before, are outing themselves: “Managers at Opel would ideally like to see the unit spun-off from GM, a move which would decisively disentangle the company from the financial and political dramas unfolding in Detroit,” writes Germany’s news magazine Der Spiegel. “German politicians and union leaders like Armin Schild also support the idea. Schild declared on Monday that GM must “let Opel go free.” Free, but where, and how?

Now, it’s no longer whether Opel should be spun off. The discussion centers – in typical German fashion – on how complicated it may be, and who would be doing it.

“The two companies have become intimately intertwined,” writes Der Spiegel. “Opel develops cars for all parts of the GM empire, contributing technical know-how not only to the production of vehicles in the American and European markets but also, for instance, for the South Korean subsidiary Daewoo.” Sounds more like a problem for GM than a challenge to a liberated Opel.

Der Spiegel continues: “Further complicating a separation is the fact that prevailing market conditions would make it difficult to find a buyer.” Difficult, but not impossible. Especially with governmental prodding and financial support. If a diminutive Porsche can acquire a very healthy Volkswagen, a proper suitor can be found for an Opel at fire sale prices.

Just like TTAC, Der Spiegel is puzzled why Foreign Minister Steinmeier would be holding his own meetings with union and auto executives: “Steinmeier’s meeting has raised a few eyebrows. Ronald Pofalla, general secretary for Chancellor Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Party, told the German press agency DPA that Steinmeier’s portfolio does not include economic policy and that he had no business conducting such a meeting in the foreign ministry.” Ah, the wonderful world of a not-so-grand coalition.

Can’t fault Germany’s Foreign Ministry for not being quick on their feet: “The ministry countered that no branch of the economy is as internationally embedded as the auto industry.” Yeah, sure.

Later in Germany’s afternoon, Berlin started to lower expectations: “We are trying to get first-hand information,” said someone close to Frau Merkel to Die Welt. A decision about loan guarantees would not be on today’s agenda. And if the bailout won’t go down, the German government already found someone to blame: “We need to observe the European law regarding fair trade and subsidies.” It’s not us! It’s the law!

In the evening it became clear: the meeting went nowhere. Associated Press quotes Chancellor Angela Merkel saying “it is not yet determined” whether automaker Adam Opel would get loan guarantees from the German government. Even the chanceloresse bangs the disentaglement drum: “The problem here is the 100 percent entanglement between Opel and GM.” Merkel says the German government plans “further talks” and should reach a decision by Christmas. Knowing that Germany typically shuts down by mid December, and doesn’t come back from skiing or warm vacation spots before mid January, this sounds like better luck next year. And cross your fingers the mothership will be above water by then.

Join the conversation
2 of 11 comments
  • Brush Brush on Nov 17, 2008

    maybe out of left field, but the news that GE Money AND GMAC are leaving the car floor financing business in Australia, with the consequences of the dealers looking for non existing credit, has started this trend,25197,24667525-601,00.html It seems that the ANZUS alliance also extends to the same Goverment bailout scenarios Specifically for GMH and Ford as the other dealers/manufacturers seem to be ok

  • Kman Kman on Nov 17, 2008

    Okay, somebody call me on this if I'm missing something. Why must another car company buy Opel. How about spinning it off as a standalone autmobile manufacturer: each GM share gets split into some fraction of GM, some fraction of the new "Opel Motoren AG" (pardon my German). I'd be happy to see an independent Opel -- I could start considering owning such beauties as the new Insignia (ECOTY).

  • SCE to AUX I charge at home 99% of the time, on a Level 2 charger I installed myself in 2012 for my Leaf. My house is 1967, 150-Amp service, gas dryer and furnace; everything else is electric with no problems. I switched from gas HW to electric HW last year, when my 18-year-old tank finally failed.I charge at a for-pay station maybe a couple times a year.I don't travel more than an hour each way in my Ioniq 1 EV, so I don't deal much with public chargers. Despite a big electric rate increase this year, my car remains ridiculously cheap to operate.
  • ToolGuy 38:25 to 45:40 -- Let's all wait around for the stupid ugly helicopter. 😉The wheels and tires are cool, as in a) carbon fiber is a structural element not decoration and b) they have some sidewall.Also like the automatic fuel adjustment (gasoline vs. ethanol).(Anyone know why it's more powerful on E85? Huh? Huh?)
  • Ja-GTI So, seems like you have to own a house before you can own a BEV.
  • Kwik_Shift Good thing for fossil fuels to keep the EVs going.
  • Carlson Fan Meh, never cared for this car because I was never a big fan of the Gen 1 Camaro. The Gen 1 Firebird looked better inside and out and you could get it with the 400.The Gen 2 for my eyes was peak Camaro as far as styling w/those sexy split bumpers! They should have modeled the 6th Gen after that.