Editorial: GM Can't Read

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
editorial gm can t read

Did we say the Opel sale is getting messier and messier? GM seems to be in urgent need to attend remedial reading class.

There is the German government making noises that if GM doesn’t say “Ja” to Magna, the government can’t guarantee that another suitor gets loan guarantees. Which in German means, they won’t. GM can’t read the writing on the wall.

Then, GM wants a buyback clause. RHJ happily wants to give one. The German government says: No way. GM can’t read the writing on the wall.

Then someone leaks a supposedly confidential analysis that says that all bids are no good. The specter of bankruptcy is being raised. GM can’t read the writing on the wall. Magna immediately sweetens their bid. RHJ, GM’s darling, does nothing. GM can’t read the writing on the wall.

Now John Smith, GM group VP (and GM’s chief negotiator for the sale of Opel), goes on GM Europe’s website and writes with a supposedly straight face, “despite media reports to the contrary, GM has NOT specified its preference for a bidder.” They did not?

The German government sure thinks GM has a preference: RHJ. According to Der Spiegel, John Smith just received a letter from the German government in which he is reminded that the “loan guarantees come with conditions.” The letter was prompted by John Smith telling the German government that he prefers RHJ. GM can’t read the writing on the wall.

Just in case anybody missed the fact that GM can’t read the writing on the wall, John Smith clearly spells out a preference in the same post on the same website.

He word-smiths that the Magna bid “contained elements around intellectual property and our Russian operations that simply could not be implemented. GM has partners in other parts of the world who have joint ownership of these assets . . . we simply could not execute the deal as submitted.”

Supposedly, “discussions with Magna continue in earnest to resolve these challenges.” Yeah, sure.

What about RHJ, for which GM supposedly has no preference? Smith gets excited: “The bid from RHJI is completed and would represent a much simpler structure and would be easier to implement. It would require less monetary participation by the government and would keep our global alignments solid, while still creating an independent Opel/Vauxhall organization in Germany. This remains a reasonable and viable option to be considered as the very difficult issues around the Magna negotiations continue to be worked.”

Does this still sound like no preference?

GM either can’t read the writing on the wall. Or they just aren’t interested in selling Opel. They also are totally ignorant of German politics.

Germany is heading into an election in September. Economy Minister von und zu Guttenberg had opposed an Opel bailout since day one. Guttenberg still “cannot rule out an Opel bankruptcy,” writes the Manager Magazine. This position made the baron from Bavaria the darling of the people. Guttenberg just advanced to Germany’s most popular politician, before chancellor Angela Merkel. Even the Social Democrats, who are indicated to lose the elections by a landslide, don’t want to touch the hot potato Opel more than absolutely necessary.

GM quickly needs to find their glasses and read what it says in big letters on the wall: “No RHJ. No buyback option.” If they don’t, and especially if the matter is not settled until the elections, German politicians will remember what is recommended as the best prevention against swine flu: Wash your hands. Of the Opel mess.

If that happens, Berlin saves billions in loan guarantees. Opel goes bankrupt. Then, BAIC might get Opel after all. For real cheap.

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2 of 19 comments
  • Wsn Wsn on Jul 30, 2009
    # akear : July 29th, 2009 at 6:05 pm Wagoner and Putz outsourced most of GM’s North American engineering to Opel. Now GM North America is so hollowed out they can’t build a vehicle from scratch. They are really screwed. ------------------------------------------------ I truly don't understand why are they selling Opel now. I mean, they have the $50B from Obama/Bush to spend for the next while. What's such a big deal to sell Opel for another $1B cash? After all, the bleeding from Opel is just a very small percentage in its entire operation. If they sell Opel, the cash generated will be inconsequential to their survival. And they lose engineering capability as indicated by akear. And they face more competitions in NA and China if Opel is sold to Magna or BAIC. And they will miss out a rebound when there is one.

  • Rx8totheendoftime Rx8totheendoftime on Jul 30, 2009

    No they can't read and never could. first realized it when they came on campus to recruit MBAs 25 years ago and hired one student. Did they hire the best student in...marketing, production, finance, etc.? No, they hired, from the most prominent business school in the country (Canada)...a truly astonishingly beautiful women who was on probation for lousy marks most of the way. She got lots of help from her fellow students, of course, and got through. Mind you, I would have done the same thing...even though she turned me down when I asked her out.

  • ToolGuy CXXVIII comments?!?
  • ToolGuy I did truck things with my truck this past week, twenty-odd miles from home (farther than usual). Recall that the interior bed space of my (modified) truck is 98" x 74". On the ride home yesterday the bed carried a 20 foot extension ladder (10 feet long, flagged 14 inches past the rear bumper), two other ladders, a smallish air compressor, a largish shop vac, three large bins, some materials, some scrap, and a slew of tool cases/bags. It was pretty full, is what I'm saying.The range of the Cybertruck would have been just fine. Nothing I carried had any substantial weight to it, in truck terms. The frunk would have been extremely useful (lock the tool cases there, out of the way of the Bed Stuff, away from prying eyes and grasping fingers -- you say I can charge my cordless tools there? bonus). Stainless steel plus no paint is a plus.Apparently the Cybertruck bed will be 78" long (but over 96" with the tailgate folded down) and 60-65" wide. And then Tesla promises "100 cubic feet of exterior, lockable storage — including the under-bed, frunk and sail pillars." Underbed storage requires the bed to be clear of other stuff, but bottom line everything would have fit, especially when we consider the second row of seats (tools and some materials out of the weather).Some days I was hauling mostly air on one leg of the trip. There were several store runs involved, some for 8-foot stock. One day I bummed a ride in a Roush Mustang. Three separate times other drivers tried to run into my truck (stainless steel panels, yes please). The fuel savings would be large enough for me to notice and to care.TL;DR: This truck would work for me, as a truck. Sample size = 1.
  • Art Vandelay Dodge should bring this back. They could sell it as the classic classic classic model
  • Surferjoe Still have a 2013 RDX, naturally aspirated V6, just can't get behind a 4 banger turbo.Also gloriously absent, ESS, lane departure warnings, etc.
  • ToolGuy Is it a genuine Top Hand? Oh, I forgot, I don't care. 🙂