Germany wants GM answer on Opel

September 4, 2009

OPEL-RHJ/Germany’s Economy Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg is boldly telling the German public that he expects a “fundamental decision” from the board of General Motors on the future of Opel next week.

He goes further, saying in a television interview that with offers from Canadian car parts manufacturer Magna and Belgian-based investor RHJ International on the table, it is tme for GM to “give in”.

Given that GM has ignored or resisted all German pressure to dictate terms on the sale of its European arm so far, there’s no reason to think that it will change its stance.

But there are growing suggestions that the U.S. automaker has indeed made up its mind on which option it wants to recommend and that a meeting of the German government-backed trust set up to work through the sale of Opel will take place on September 10.

GM’s board is due to meet next week to discuss the Opel situation, with Magna and RHJ both apparently still in the race despite Berlin’s clear preference for Russian-backed Magna.

Keeping the spice alive, there have been suggestions that GM may now be backing off selling a stake in Opel altogether, with reports that it is trying to pull together state aid from the British, Polish and Spanish goverments.

So far at least there’s nothing on GM chief negotiator John Smith’s blog to suggest anything has changed since his last posting on August 14 when he told us with customary clarity where things stood.

But Smith’s electronic silence could well mean that the phoney war is over and the real negotiating has now begun.

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It seems to me that the GM guy has been pretty clear – GM likes the RHJ offer but is leaving space for the Germans to save face when their insistence for what is a bad long-term deal for GM becomes more clear – so thats why noboby is forcing anything yet.

Maybe the press should do a more thorough RHJ vs Magna comparison rather than just repeating everything the German politicians – who may not be correct, but they sure can stay on message – say in their speeches.

Posted by howard | Report as abusive