THE WEEK THAT WAS: GM and that U-turn
Thanks, GM. Months and months of coverage, analysis and speculation and what happens at the board meeting Tuesday night? "Tell you what, boys, why don't we just keep Opel and restructure it ourselves?"
Reaction was mixed, to put it mildly. Having cooked up a state-aid deal that looked set to preserve all their Opel plants, if not all the Opel employees, the Germans were incandescent. In contrast, here in the UK, the decision was welcomed by unions and government; I suspect the workers feel they'll get a fairer deal from their current owner than a politically influenced new master.
Successful but spurned bidder Magna, which you might have expected to load the barrel with as many lawyers as would fit and then fire, was remarkably sanguine, promising initially to support Opel and then promising not to seek compensation. Magna clearly sees no point in upsetting its biggest customer, and has ruffled feathers at Chrysler and VW to smooth, and there seems to be some relief all round the parts maker will, for now at least, stick to the knitting and go on making parts and relevant acquisitions. Its shares went up 10% after the GM announcement. It restructured last year to adjust to the new reality and, though nine-month results were written in red ink, nonetheless managed a a surprise Q3 profit.
So what for Opel? Clearly, as is usually the case with such events, a scalp or two will be claimed but I was surprised to learn today that even US government money might be available and that, though fires are still burning over there, German aid will probably be forthcoming, too.
What the week's developments have not, done, of course, is give the workers any more reassurance. With GM back in the frame, the axe is back hovering over Bochum and Kaiserlautern in particular and 10,000 jobs are still going to have to be culled Europe-wide regardless. Hopefully, GM will have that updated restructuring plan ready soon.
Over at Ford, it was good news and bad news this week. Bad: the UAW nix on any more concessions ahead of the next big round of pay talks in 2011; good: the company booked its first operating profit since Q1 2008.
In the midst of all that, a new technological development from Ford; the inflatable rear seat belt - an airbag and seat belt in one. Beltbag, anyone?
Enjoy your weekend.