German, Swiss governments kinder than U.S. to GM execs

January 13, 2009

This post was written by colleague Christiaan Hetzner.

Listening to GM Europe CEO Carl-Peter Forster (right), there is a big side benefit of having the thankless job of running a business in danger of being dragged under by its foundering parent
For one, you are not publicly humiliated by lawmakers with an ax to grind the next time you try and hit them up for aid.
Whereas U.S. congressmen eager to score points with taxpayers were just itching to take turns tag-teaming his boss Rick Wagoner, Forster said he is treated with far more respect and understanding by the German and Swedish governments when he participates in discussions over receiving billions in state loan guarantees. GM is looking to sell its Saab brand in Sweden.
Asked at the Detroit auto show whether the talks were considered in Europe to be as controversial as those in Washington, Forster replied: “Interestingly enough, the Europeans take a very, very different approach. Much less hostile, virtually not hostile at all, seeing the automotive industry as a very important industry.”
GM Europe has a funding requirement peaking this year, in part due to this year’s roll-out of the new Opel Astra and Saab 9-5 cars, key models for both brands.
 “They (state officials) understand the extraordinary circumstances in Europe — by the way, the circumstances in the U.S. are even more extraordinary than in Europe. They know how important the industry is for the European economy and particularly for certain member states like Germany, France, Italy, the UK and so on. Absolutely no hostility, very open, understand the situation and try to come up with a solution.”
Perhaps lawmakers in the more socialist governments across the Atlantic better realize what would happen if Opel or Saab cannot get the loan guarantees needed to access to the European Investment Bank’s 16 billion-euro fund for the European auto industry, which is only open to companies with an investment grade rating. 


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

The solution is for SAAB auto and Volvo cars to merge and the new entity to operate as an auto manufacturer with two brands. The injection of words like “socialist” and “conservative government” into this matter is less than irrelevant, it is stupid. It is beyond belief that the Government of Sweden would allow these two first class companies to die, or pass into the hands of Private Equity groups or Asian manufacturers. but, it seems, this is a possibility. Unbelievable. It has been reported that the engineers of both companies in Sweden have put forward what soulds like a practical proposal. Well, they should move beyond talk and actually create a Task Force to take on this matter. Everyone seem to be laid back, not recognizing the Urgency. I assure you that neither France nor Germany, to cite two examples, would allow matters to reach this parlous stage.

Posted by C. Alexander Brown | Report as abusive

LOL. Since when did Switzerland become Swedish?
Reuters is supposed to be a reliable source of information I thought. lol

Posted by Freddie | Report as abusive