Opel: Fiat, Magna And The 14 Steps To Heaven

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
opel fiat magna and the 14 steps to heaven

In German politics or the corporate world, the secret weapon to destroy any progress is the feared “12 point program.” Any similarities to a 12-step program of substance abusers are purely coincidental. Since there is no way that all 12 points will ever be met, the project languishes and dies on its own with nobody having killed it.

The German government has increased the mega-tonnage of its secret weapon and presented Fiat’s Marchionne with a 14-point program as he visited Berlin on Monday to meet government and union officials. His intent: Secure political (and financial) backing by the end of this month for a dream. Marchionne wants to combine Fiat, Chrysler and Opel/Vauxhall to a car group that cranks out more than 7 million units a year and has combined revenues in excess of $100 billion. Second to Toyota. Bigger than Volkswagen. (That should make the plan popular in Germany.) Not so fast:

One of the many sticking points in the 14-point catalog, presented by Germany’s vice-chancellor Frank-Walter Steinmeier, is that the company must be headquartered in Deutschland, Financial Times reports. Germany didn’t forget that GM moved its European HQ to tax-friendly Switzerland.

And just in case Marchionne wants to move to beautiful Deutschland (Fiat said on Monday that a decision on a future headquarters for the merged group would be “premature”, but added: “Opel is a German company, so it needs a headquarters in Germany.”) there are 13 other conditions.

All Opel factories in Germany must be kept open, Der Spiegel writes, jobs must be kept in Germany. Anyone interested in Opel must prove “experience in the application of complex strategic concepts and the management of global companies.” Synergy and cost reduction measures must be shown. The company must prove that the money the government signs for is safe, that it is not siphoned off elsewhere, and, finally, the successful applicant must win a beauty contest with the unions and the Opel dealers being the jury.

Good luck.

Supposedly, the 14-point program applies to all applicants. Besides Fiat, there are the Canadian-Austrian car parts group Magna International, sovereign wealth funds from Abu Dhabi and Singapore, and three private equity groups.

The 14-step program should bring the list down to two, and it favors Magna. Both unions and dealers already gave their thumbs down to Fiat.

According to Financial Times, “Berlin has no say in which suitor will secure Opel, a decision that rests solely in the hands of General Motors. Yet the government has promised to support the future owner with credit guarantees and, as evidenced by the Steinmeier paper, is using its influence to shape the transaction.”

Marchionne in the meantime plays the cold war card saying, “Magna wants to take over Opel with Russian help. It would surprise me if the German government thinks that this is a good idea.” Someone from Russia will get back to Sergio on this and remind him that Fiat had consorted with the enemy in the 60s. Remember Lada? Togliatti anyone? Remember the hand crank?

A decision of who gets whom and what for how much will be rendered within a few weeks, says Automobilwoche [sub]. Economy minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg says it could happen in May. And so it should. June 1 looms, the day of reckoning at GM.

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  • Fincar1 Fincar1 on May 06, 2009

    I wonder if that stretch Fiat was modified in Cuba, which is where the photo was taken.

  • Martin Schwoerer Martin Schwoerer on May 06, 2009

    OMG. Deripaska (an alleged criminal) together with Magna, or empire-building Marchionne? Both are lousy choices. And the German government is still pretending they can dictate the conditions of sale? "Good luck" is putting it exactly right.

  • Donald More stuff to break god I love having a nanny in my truck... find a good tuner and you can remove most of the stupid stuff they add like this and auto park when the doors open stupid stuff like that
  • John Williams Sounds like a Burnout Special you can put together on any 5.0 F150. Whoever said this was Cars and Coffee bait is right on the money.
  • ToolGuy Question: F-150 FP700 (  Bronze or  Black) supercharger kit is legal in 50 states, while the  Mustang supercharger kit is banned in California -- why??
  • Scott "It may not be the ideal hauler to take the clan cross-country to Wally World considering range anxiety "Range Anxiety is a chosen term that conceals as much as it discloses. You don't care about range that much if you can recharge quickly and current BV's (battery vehicles) can't, no matter how good the chargers are. From what I've been reading it is likely that within 5 years there will be batteries in cars, most likely Tesla's, that can charge fast enough with no harm to the batteries to satisfy all of us with no need to increase range beyond a real world 300-ish miles.And that's when I buy one.
  • Charles I had one and loved it . Seated 7 people . Easy to park , great van