Opel has received a new lease on life. Nobody knows how long the lease will last, but Opel is an important step ahead and gained an even more important ally in its beggathon for state aid. Opel cut a deal with its unions, led by labor leader Klaus Franz.
“For much of the past year, Klaus Franz has been a thorn in General Motors Co.’s side,” wrote the Wall Street Journal. Franz “has blamed the European car unit’s troubles on its American parent, saying GM was ‘filled with yes-men’ and that it had a ‘centralized planning system worse than in East Germany.’ Now, GM needs to make nice with Mr. Franz.” With their backs to the wall, GM finally paid the price and made nice.
Opels head shop steward Klaus Franz is mightily mad at Opel’s CEO Nick Reilly. Reilly told the London Times that the Ampera, Opel’s counterpart to the Volt, may be built in the Ellesmere Port plant in the UK:“The chances are quite good that the Ampera will come to Ellesmere Port as it is close in production terms to the Astra and will share many components,” Reilly said. In the meantime, Berlin cues Roberta Flack’s “Killing me softly” as a prelude for Opel’s funeral.
Think everything will be hunky-dory by, well, 2012? (Watch the movie.) Fitch Ratings thinks the U.S. auto industry won’t get back on its feet anytime soon. Worse, the industry may be caught in an “airline-style” cycle of repetitive bankruptcies because of weak sales and a glut of production capacity. It is unusual for a U.S. airline (and many elsewhere) to not be in bankruptcy or not have been at some point.
Amongst the rating agencies, Fitch is the only halfway good one. They were the lone voice that had warned against the dangers of the collateralized debt obligations that brought the world to the brink of disaster.
In a report cited by Reuters, Fitch says that high fixed costs, the lengthy periods required to develop new products and chronic overcapacity will leave the industry “littered with failures—plants, product lines, brands and companies.”
The Opel/GM saga has more twists than New York’s Peppermint Lounge. Yesterday, we reported that GM’s Smith & Reilly went to Berlin to beg money from German Economy Minister Rainer Bruederle. They received the cold shoulder.
Like good salesmen, they didn’t take no for an answer.
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