Blog: Dave LeggettOpel/Vauxhall elements coming together

Dave Leggett | 25 May 2010

Although General Motors announced quarterly results last week that put it back in the black, its European operations remained in the red. But there was some good news for GM in Europe last week.

GM, you'll recall, did a 180 last year on plans to sell its Opel/Vauxhall operations when it realised it could ride any associated liquidity issues. And if it could possibly hang on to Opel/Vauxhall, then that would be a sensible course of action, GM's executives decided. Getting rid of superfluous brands is one thing, but a truly global car company needs market presence in Europe.

That just left the small matter of actually turning those European operations around. A restructuring plan has been devised that entails shutting Antwerp and re-jigging assembly operations elsewhere to get capacity utilisation near to where it should be. GM will inject funds into Opel/Vauxhall and loan guarantees are being sought from European governments where facilities are located - most notably the German government.

Last week we learned that Opel/Vauxhall's European workers had agreed to measures that would substantially cut the company's wage bill - in return for investment in new product. It's an important step in getting Berlin to sign-off on loan guarantees.

That we are living in strange times is illustrated by the scale of the German government's contribution to the EU's eurozone bailout. The contribution from German taxpayers to help the likes of Greece is a staggering EUR148bn. The request for loan guarantees for Opel - to help protect jobs in Germany, remember - is up to a figure that is 1% of that. Strange times indeed.

There are challenges ahead (not least getting to break-even in 2011), but at least the elements in Opel/Vauxhall's restructuring plan are now coming together.


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