Commentaries

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Will GM pick a German to run GM Europe?

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OPEL/It looks as though General Motors will soon be looking for a new executive to run GM Europe, which includes its troubled Opel unit.

The U.S. carmaker needs someone with credibility within Germany as well as within the car industry if it replaces GM Europe head Carl-Peter Forster.

There are a few German industry heavyweights about who could do the job.

How about former Continental CEO Manfred Wennemer, who knows a lot about tyres and auto parts? Or Porsche’s former boss and golden-boy Wendelin Wiedeking? Or Daimler’s Wolfgang Bernhardt, who recently took over running the Mercedes-Benz van unit?

All have the right credentials, although Wiederking may have too much baggage (and too much money after his pay-off from Porsche to want to do the job).

Lower Opel costs to help government aid

General Motors’ decision to scrap the sale of Opel rests on the carmaker’s calculation that the hole in its European unit’s finances is not as deep as previously feared.

Governments should welcome the lower demands on taxpayers with open arms. But there is still some horse trading to be done to get everyone on board. 

Germans vote for change; will they get it?

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angieGermans have voted for change. A centre-right government with a clear parliamentary majority will replace the ungainly grand coalition of conservatives and Social Democrats that ran Europe’s biggest economy for the last four years.

This should mean an end to ”steady as she goes” lowest common denominator policies, and at least some reform of the country’s tax and welfare system. The liberal Free Democrats, who recorded their best ever result with around 14.7 percent, will try to pull the new government towards tax cuts, health care reform, a reduction in welfare spending and a loosening of job protection in small business.

Germany will have to change Opel deal after election

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opelanerIt looks increasingly clear that Germany will have to change its deal to aid carmaker Opel once Sunday’s general election is out of the way.

The European Commission has signaled to Berlin that promising 4.5 billion euros in loan guarantees to only one of the two bidders for General Motors’ European arm to preserve all four German production sites and most Opel jobs in Germany may breach EU rules on state aid to industry. EU regulators want to know why Chancellor Angela Merkel and four German states offered the money to back car parts maker Magna’s bid but not for financial investor RHJ International’s, and on what conditions. 

Should Volkswagen demand a Magna Carta?

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GERMANY/Magna International seems to be taking seriously threats from Volkswagen to pull its business following the Canadian car parts maker’s Opel victory.

Magna’s co-CEO Donald Walker is saying that after talking to them, most of his other customers are happy that the car parts group – which along with Russian backer Sberbank is buying a 55 percent shareholding in GM’s Opel — is able to protect their technologies.

Is Goldman’s Chinese convertible really a taxi?

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BRITAIN/The number of London’s trademark black taxis booked and waiting outside the European headquarters of Goldman Sachs — meters running — was once used by some as a barometer of the health of London’s investment banking business.

When times were good, the queue was long and it was impossible for anyone else in the vicinity to hail a cab. But when the fees dried up, or markets turned, the cabbies who’d been at Goldman’s beck and call suddenly had to find new customers.

China picks European cars off scrapheap

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GERMANY/Chinese carmakers are seeking to step into the gaps left by U.S. companies in Europe — but while acquisitions may give them access to badly-needed technical know-how, global brands and exposure to new markets, the question is whether they have learnt from past failures.

With China now the world’s largest car market, it’s no surprise that Chinese carmakers — which have few if any really solid brands within their home market — want to start making more of a mark.

Re-elected Barroso faces market challenge

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bozoJose Manuel Barroso promised the European Parliament that as re-elected president of the European Commission he will have more authority to fight for Europe and defend its single market against economic nationalism.

But after five years of toadying to the big member states, he will need to show more spine to enforce state aid and competition rules on Germany, Britain and France in the teeth of strong national financial or commercial interests.

German Opel aid tests EU rules

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opel-logosThe credibility of the European Union’s single market and state aid rules is at stake over Germany’s selective offer of taxpayers’ money to preserve Opel factories and jobs on its soil.

On the face of things, it looks like an open-and-shut breach of state aid rules. General Motors agreed last week to sell 55 percent of its European arm to a consortium of Magna and Russia’s Sberbank under massive pressure from Berlin.

Can Magna keep its model juggling act with Opel?

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OPEL/Cries from Volkswagen about pulling its business from Magna if the Canadian car parts maker ended up owning a stake in GM’s former European unit Opel ring somewhat hollow given the success Magna has had in juggling its customers’ different needs so far.

Even so, Magna is trying hard to keep its customers — which also include Toyota, Ford and BMW — happy by vowing to ringfence Opel from the rest of its business now it has won the long battle to buy GM’s former European unit.

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