Opel: Abandon All Hope

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

After having had a look at the calendar, the German government appears to have written off any chances of solving the increasingly puzzling Opel mess before the national elections. (September 27). In an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, German Economy Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg said that Opel has enough money to last through January. Which is code for “don’t expect anything soon.” And he has an ace up his sleeve . . .

What zu Guttenberg didn’t mention: in November the €1.5 billion “bridge loan” provided to Opel by the German government will be due for repayment. If there’s no solution by then, Berlin will have GM by the short & curlies. Guttenberg thinks that “it is not realistic” that GM will come up with the money and the extra billions necessary to keep GM afloat.

Suddenly, Berlin has all the time in the world. “Substance trumps speed,” said Chancellor Angela Merkel, and maintaining German interests is more important than undue haste.

A meeting of the federal government, the stakeholders in the Opel states and GM management was scheduled for today. Cancelled. An inside source said to Dow Jones: “There is no need to talk.” Nobody expects any sudden breakthroughs, says Die Welt. With four weeks to go until the elections, the politicos have to focus their attention on more pressing subjects. Such as whether to allow genetically modified potatoes. Or not.

Guttenberg, who’s ranking on top of the popularity scale in Germany, never liked the bailout. He was always in favor of insolvency. If he still has a job after the elections—and all polling points that way—he’ll most likely do what he always wanted to do: make some Lebensraum for more German German automakers.

And for all of those who thought that the elections could pressure Germany into a sudden decision, Guttenberg has a message: “September 27 never entered my thinking as far as Opel is concerned. It would be absurd.”

Expect all kinds of unpopular measures after the elections. If Berlin demands the loan to be paid back in November, and if GM can’t pay, Opel must declare bankruptcy. That’s the way German law is written.

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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  • Pnnyj Pnnyj on Aug 28, 2009

    GM seems to think that everyone outside of GM is as stupid and spineless as they are (a perception sadly confirmed by the twits in Congress.) But the Germans are playing this very strategically and will end up getting whatever it is they decide they want out of this soap opera. And GM won't even know what hit them.

  • Moedaman Moedaman on Aug 28, 2009
    menno : August 28th, 2009 at 9:03 am Borgward redux. Look it up. An interesting read at Wikipedia. But the creditors were never named. Were they in league with other German auto manufacturers? Do you have any more info? Demented minds want to know! ;)
  • Doughboy Wow, Merc knocks it out of the park with their naming convention… again. /s
  • Doughboy I’ve seen car bras before, but never car beards. ZZ Top would be proud.
  • Bkojote Allright, actual person who knows trucks here, the article gets it a bit wrong.First off, the Maverick is not at all comparable to a Tacoma just because they're both Hybrids. Or lemme be blunt, the butch-est non-hybrid Maverick Tremor is suitable for 2/10 difficulty trails, a Trailhunter is for about 5/10 or maybe 6/10, just about the upper end of any stock vehicle you're buying from the factory. Aside from a Sasquatch Bronco or Rubicon Jeep Wrangler you're looking at something you're towing back if you want more capability (or perhaps something you /wish/ you were towing back.)Now, where the real world difference should play out is on the trail, where a lot of low speed crawling usually saps efficiency, especially when loaded to the gills. Real world MPG from a 4Runner is about 12-13mpg, So if this loaded-with-overlander-catalog Trailhunter is still pulling in the 20's - or even 18-19, that's a massive improvement.
  • Lou_BC "That’s expensive for a midsize pickup" All of the "offroad" midsize trucks fall in that 65k USD range. The ZR2 is probably the cheapest ( without Bison option).
  • Lou_BC There are a few in my town. They come out on sunny days. I'd rather spend $29k on a square body Chevy