GM’s Opel Surprise
When I heard about GM keeping its Opel unit, that line from a song by British band Coldplay came to my mind. After all those long nights of paltering on job cuts and money, GM was having a change of heart.
The sale of Opel to a group led by Canadian car parts maker Magna — announced in September — was widely considered a done deal. Turns out, it was less done than more. Citing improving business conditions and the strategic importance of Opel, GM decided it would be better to alienate the German government that provided it with a loan to sweeten the sale of the unit to Magna than to lose the business. GM said it would repay the rest of the 1.5 billion euro ($2.2 billion) bridge loan if Berlin requested. The loan helped save Opel from being sucked into GM’s dip into bankruptcy this year.
“This is a black day for Opel,” an employee, who declined to be named, said in front of the company’s headquarters in Ruesselsheim, near Frankfurt. German government officials were said to be seething, as were the Russians, who’s Sperbank had tied up with Magna to do the deal. But not all of Europe was angry. British unions welcomed the news. “It is fantastic news for the UK and right that General Motors does not break up its family and instead retains ownership of (Opel sister brand) Vauxhall,” said Tony Woodley, joint general secretary of the Unite union.
Analysts say big questions remain about what GM will do with Opel when consumer-friendly car scrapping schemes expire. At that point, will it be back to square one?