Labor Leader: Volkswagen Blackmails Opel

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

Having won the battle of the alpha males, Volkswagen now bares its fangs at two new enemies: Big Toyota, which Volkswagen wants to unseat from its #1 position; and moribund Opel, which VW would rather see dead than alive. VW CEO Winterkorn growled that VW might pull its parts business from Magna if the Canadian-owned partsmaker proceeds with their plan to acquire Opel. “We are looking with suspicion at what’s happening here,” Winterkorn said, according to the German edition of the Financial Times. Things are getting nasty, again . . .

Winterkorn threatened to take the lucrative VW component business from Magna. In this business, suppliers are part of the development process and have access to the crown jewels. They know manufacturer plans years in advance. “When we award new contracts, we will consider carefully whether there could be competitive disadvantages for us,” Winterkorn grumbled in the direction of Aurora, Ontario, and Rüsselsheim, Germany.

An infuriated Opel labor leader Klaus Franz hissed back: “The threat not to award Magna with contracts is tantamount to blackmail. Whoever says a rescue of Opel through Magna poses a competitive disadvantage, is hoping for the downfall of Opel in order to gain an edge for himself and reduce his own overcapacities at the cost of Opel.”

And he is right about that.

Franz groveled that Volkswagen had government support for decades—thanks to Lower Saxony’s controlling 20 percent of the company. (The “VW” law gives Lower Saxony a blocking minority, the non-suspension of which stopped Porsche’s takeover plans dead in their tracks).

Industry insiders intimate that Winterkorn is making it all up. Volkswagen usually is not adverse to getting cozy with other competitors. They point out that VW is the biggest customer of Faurecia, a major European supplier, majority owned by French carmaker Peugeot Citroën.

And they are right about that.

Magna manufactures the BMW X3, the Mercedes-Benz G-Class, the Chrysler 300C and both the Jeep Commander and Grand Cherokee, without anybody complaining.

Magna will build the Rapide four-door coupe for Aston Martin and the Boxster/Cayman line for Porsche. Insiders indicate that nobody seems to be worried about state secrets leaking to the competition.

And they are right about that.

Volkswagen, which competes head-to-head with Opel in most segments, wants Opel out of the way. Berlin seems not to be inclined to give government money to anybody else than Magna. GM is dragging its heels.

The longer the decision drags on, the deader Opel gets. Motormouth Ferdinand Dudenhöffer stated the obvious: After the national elections on September 27, “nobody will give a hoot for Opel.” And with one competitor out of the way, VW would be a step closer towards its declared goal of world domination.

Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href="http://www.tomokoandbertel.com"> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href="http://www.offshoresuperseries.com"> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

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  • Dadude53 Dadude53 on Aug 17, 2009

    @herb: Frank Stronach was not born in the Steyr region(Upper Austria), instead he comes from Weiz(Styria), about 15km from Graz. Ferdinand Porsche only designed the Steyr 30 for them and by the time the car was displayed at the 1930 Paris Auto Show, he already had left the company.

  • Jadsmith1975 Jadsmith1975 on Aug 18, 2009

    The real news is that Volkswagen will be bringing back the Phaeton after it pulled the model out of its U.S. lineup due to poor sales.

  • Varezhka The biggest underlying issue of Mitsubishi Motors was that for most of its history the commercial vehicles division was where all the profit was being made, subsidizing the passenger vehicle division losses. Just like Isuzu.And because it was a runt of a giant conglomerate who mainly operated B2G and B2B, it never got the attention it needed to really succeed. So when Daimler came in early 2000s and took away the money making Mitsubishi-Fuso commercial division, it was screwed.Right now it's living off of its legacy user base in SE Asia, while its new parent Nissan is sucking away at its remaining engineering expertise in EV and kei cars. I'd love to see the upcoming US market Delica, so crossing fingers they will last that long.
  • ToolGuy A deep-dive of the TTAC Podcast Archives gleans some valuable insight here.
  • Tassos I heard the same clueless, bigoted BULLSHEET about the Chinese brands, 40 years ago about the Japanese Brands, and more recently about the Koreans.If the Japanese and the Koreans have succeeded in the US market, at the expense of losers such as Fiat, Alfa, Peugeot, and the Domestics,there is ZERO DOUBT in my mind, that if the Chinese want to succeed here, THEY WILL. No matter what one or two bigots do about it.PS try to distinguish between the hard working CHINESE PEOPLE and their GOVERNMENT once in your miserable lives.
  • 28-Cars-Later I guess Santa showed up with bales of cash for Mitsu this past Christmas.
  • Lou_BC I was looking at an extended warranty for my truck. The F&I guy was trying to sell me on the idea by telling me how his wife's Cadillac had 2 infotainment failures costing $4,600 dollars each and how it was very common in all of their products. These idiots can't build a reliable vehicle and they want me to trust them with the vehicle "taking over" for me.
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