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GM Woes = Opel Angst As German Workers Protest


photo credit: stuep

photo credit: stuep

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Proving that GM's problems are far from contained to its U.S. operations, thousands of GM factory workers protested today outside the Adam Opel AG plant in Ruesselsheim, Germany. They demonstrated in hopes of saving their jobs, and elsewhere in Europe factory workers affected by threatened GM plant layoffs staged similar protests.

Provoking job loss fears was GM's announcement of a crippling $9.6 billion loss for the fourth quarter of 2008. Opel's top employee representative Klaus Franz underscored the dire situation by spelling out the ramifications: "there is only one single chance, and that is spinning off Opel and Vauxhall from the GM group." Franz spoke those words while addressing a sea of 15,000 workers gathered at the Ruesselsheim plant.

Opel Logo

Opel Logo

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A German politician claimed that no fewer than five countries must band together to save Opel. Elsewhere in Germany, work stoppages and rallies disrupted GM global assembly lines in Eisenach and Kaiserslautern. Across Europe, similar scenarios played out at GM plants in Sweden (Saab), the U.K. (Vauxhall), Austria, France, Spain, and Hungary.

Analysts claim that splitting Opel off from GM presents a massive challenge as the two companies are so closely enmeshed. Nonetheless, Opel's employee council has asked GM to remain open to government support and new business partners. In Germany, Opel employs roughly 25,000 workers. 26,000 of the 47,000 global jobs GM plans to cut by the end of the year are planned for its non-U.S. operations.

Sounding much like Nancy Pelosi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel claimed her country's government would only consider support for Opel when presented with a "sustainable company concept" for the future.

[source: Detroit News]

 
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Comments (5)
  1. "GM Management and Board Inept"

    GM senior management and the Board of Directors should either resign or the shareholders should remove them so that they do not completely run the company into the ditch. Chairman Wagoner, the chickens have come home to roost. For so long he has talked a good game. Can you tell me how many years with him at the helm has GM had a profit outside of a gain from selling something off (i.e., Hughes and part of GMAC)? Head in the sand thinking in the US market now threatens to take everything down, including in UK, Germany, Russia, and China operations. Like Ford did when it sent Mr. Fields and Mr. Booth over to stabilize Mazda, a crew needs to be hired or loaned from Honda or Toyota to stabilize and straighten out GM. I am sure that once this is done the bloated salaries that were not performance based (i.e., resulting in staying number one) will be one welcomed change. You can't find a Chairman of a auto maker in Japan who made anywhere close to the $18 million that Chairman Wagoner pocketed in 2007 or 2008 with the Board's blessing. Secondly, fuel efficient clean diesels engines from Europe will be certified and offered in large sedans, SUVs (particularly Hummer since no one will take this gas guzzling division off GM's hands), and crossovers to get them moving. NUMMI will be expanded to provide a version of the Toyota Corolla in order to bump reliability and quality ratings, and to provide fuel efficient Hybrid Synergy Drive versions of the Toyota Corolla and Pontiac Vibe. The current GM brain trust was not wise enough to license Hybrid Synergy Drive technology from Toyota like Nissan and Ford did. A refugee from Audi will be brought in to get the interiors, handling, and features up to snuff. At the VW/Audi Group they spend the money once or twice designing a beautiful interior, and then put it in everything expensive and cheap. The GM way is to design the interior fifty different ways cutting corners whether expensive or cheap. The result is that it is what it is cheap looking across the board. As good as the Chevy Malibu and Saturn Aura interiors and features are perceived, they still fall behind even last generation Camrys and Accords! For instance, why don't their fuel filler doors lock and where are the passsenger assist grips all around and the rear center headrests? Even the GM/Daewoo Aveo sedan trunk is better appointed than the Chevy Cobalt and Pontiac G5 and G6. I do have to give credit to the current GM brain trust the for the NUMMI agreement and for one other short lived flash of brillance in the US. That was the decision to install Honda V-6 engines in Saturn Vues.
     
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  2. "Bizzarro Times"

    It is shocking how badly GM has been mismanaged. What is more shocking is there still in business! I swear I could start a new car company with what they lost in Q4. Amazing.
    Also why is it everyone outside of GM knows what there problems are and what needs to be done. Everyone, but GM itself. These people have to be brain dead.
    We are living in bizzarro times. Whether its the obsession with Obama or GM. Or the massive bailouts, etc. - with not a single person having gone to prison yet BTW. If I stole a stack of newspapers I would be in prison! It only underscores the fact that everything - from 9-11 to the financial crisis to the election of this know nothing Obama was all planned.
    These are weird times. Nothing makes sense any more.
    Bravo GM.
     
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  3. "Congratulations, Unions!"

    If a world power did to the American economy what the unions have done, we'd declare WWIII against them and start dropping nukes. We also have to take the same action against the Unions AND management. The cars are OVERPRICED, under-engineered, BORING, and the wages, benefits, retirement, and health insurance of the auto makers have made them expendible. We need to Chapter 11 them, first, and see how that goes down. If that doesn't work, then it's a simple Chapter 7. No more Mr. Nice Guy against these nincompoops.
     
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  4. "Mr D"

    Are you some sort of Moron? Toyota is, has and continues to make some of the same mistakes the big 3 did. Tundra, Land Cruiser, Venza Highlander and the rest. Toyota has more SUV's in the stable than GM and the cars are boring as hell.
    Granted - they were successful on a heritage of reliability. But they were over-building and over-sizing just like GM - look at their loss from 2008 and projections for 2009!
    Be realistic - when you have to cough up $3k plus per vehicle to cover the overpaid workforce and the benefits that were erroneously conceded to them for a lifetime, you have to cut somewhere. Honda is a bright spot - they never went for a full-size truck platform, they maintained and increased quality and invested in a value-superior hybrid program.
    Any one of us could sit back and put together a dream team of auto execs/designers to save GM, more constructive would be to let them go bankrupt - restructure and realign their costs in all categories to be more competitve across the board. Then if the quality/product mix doesn't meet demand - it's no fault but their own.
     
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  5. "Jmal"

    No, I am not a moron. What I am is one disgruntled shareholder who witnessed Mr. Wagoner and the Board of Directors flushing GM and my investment down the drain with their arrogance. Honda and Toyota have high reliability ratings and give you good features. If someone usually wants a quality rod, they don't usually say GM unless they are trying to wave a flag or buy something cheap. Look at the highest resale values across the board. You will see the category littered with Acuras, Hondas, Toyotas, Lexuses, and Infinitis. The goals for GM should have been to produce the most fuel efficient, best handling, most reliable, and best featured vehicles. They could do it, but the management arrogance got in the way. GM manangement believed that advertising and exterior design could fool the consumer. People saw and see through it on these shores and have and continue to vote with their feet. Why would anyone pay for a Chevy that is a generation behind a Honda for the same money? Honda Fits are running out the door! GM and the rest of the Detroit gang took the taxpayer money when they failed to deliver a super fuel efficient sedan when the Clinton Administration was in office. At the same time Toyota took the Japanese governments assistance and delivered a success story in the Prius and its Hybrid Synergy Drive System. Now GM is still crying for money to catch up in building fuel efficient vehicles. While Toyota and Honda may not be meeting profit projections, they are certainly not going hat in hand begging like GM. The arrogance and excesses have caught up with Detroit. The crazy salaries, the private jets, the free cars provided to Board members who don't even want to drive the product and could afford to buy their own. I have provided suggestions to GM management like the ones in my message that you criticized, but I wish there were more shareholders that would have assisted in turning GM management over long ago for not listening to reason. I wish that Ross Perot would have been successful in running this crew out long ago. Reaction time from this crew has been slow. It has finally caught up with them. Instead of sending the lawyers out to fight against fuel economy improvements, they should have saved those dollars and made the improvements like Toyota and Honda to not only meet but exceed the targets for vehicles. As for your comment about an overpaid workforce. The German workers have higher salaries and benefits. You don't hear much crying from Porsche, Mercedes, or BMW or the citizenry about their overpaid workers even in this country. The difference is that they charge a high price for those vehicles but give you the content for the price in features, performance, and handling. GM has not quite caught up to them yet, but still wants to charge the same price go figure. If you can design razor sharp steering into a Corvette, why can't the same be done to the Cadillac CTS to best a BMW 3 Series? There is no excuse. Even VWs with their less than stellar quality ratings are better handling and featured than GM products at basically the same price point. While VW delivered electric steering with very good feedback out of the gate, GM did not and took two or three years catching up after the critics jumped on them. There again is no excuse. The end result is that GM will be stripped down and will have to refocus with what is left to survive. Fortunately this current management will likely not be around with their arrogance to screw it up this time. Any further assistance from the Obama Adminstration and Congress will most certainly come a worthwhile string attached -- the GM Chairman and the Board of Directors jumping off of the plank!
     
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