New Round Tonight In Opel Liar's Poker

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

This evening, at 6pm local, the board of directors of General Motors will meet and discuss whether they should sell Opel to Magna or to RHJ. You won’t hear a decision. They will have to ask their overlords in Washington first. The German government, which is supposed to finance the deal, doesn’t take the meeting seriously anyway. Tomorrow, Tuesday, the German government will continue talks with both suitors, to get a better deal. When a final decision will be made, is anybody’s guess. “If you ask me what will happen when, then I won’t be able to give you an answer,” said a speaker of the German economics minister to Automobilwoche [sub]. Can anyone?

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung in Munich, always amazingly well informed about what happens or doesn’t happen in Rüsselsheim and Detroit, already writes: “The meeting today will bring no results. The controversy about where Opel will find a new home will continue. The tragic part is that the longer the rescuers keep trying, the more unlikely the rescue of the automaker will get. Rarely was there such a big disconnect between good intentions and good work. The bad part is that none of the rescuers are truthful.”

The German government demands from the buyer that no plants – at least not in Germany – will be closed. The unions demand the same. Both know they demand the impossible.

These demands force the investors to tell lies. They make promises they can’t keep.

GM is just as untruthful. Do they want Opel back or not? They are talking out of both sides of their mouths. They can’t live with the losses of Opel, they can’t live without the technology of Opel.

The German government is dishonest with its people. They want to keep Opel open until the elections are over. Everybody knows that the Emperor is naked, that Opel can’t survive on its own. Nobody wants to admit it.

The owners of GM, the US government, is just as far from the truth. They play the innocent bystander. But they know that without Opel’s technology, especially when it comes to politically correct smaller cars, they’ll never get their “investment” in GM back.

So how will it end? Will Opel go back to GM? This could cause a revolution amongst the European workers who do not want to go back under the yoke of Detroit. It will also be a very hard sell in Berlin. Berlin was paranoid that money put into Opel could vanish in a black hole in Detroit. If they give Opel back to its owners, the money will vanish in a tar pit in DC.

Maybe it will end in bankruptcy. Everybody knows the industry needs a consolidation and there is too much capacity. Once the elections are over, bankruptcy is a possibility. Chancellor Angela Merkel is already playing for time. “The final signing of the contracts has been long planned for fall 2009,” Angela said to Auto Motor und Sport. “How much time will elapse until the negotiations are finished, I cannot say.” At least a little bit of truth.

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=""> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href=""> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

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