Concerns Grow in Germany About Carmaker Opel′s Future | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 18.02.2009
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Concerns Grow in Germany About Carmaker Opel's Future

Fears are growing in Germany about the fate of carmaker Opel as Berlin awaits details of a restructuring plan by struggling US parent General Motors. The US auto giant has already announced 47,000 job cuts worldwide.

An Opel plant in Eisenach in Germany

Opel's future is on the line as stricken parent company General Motors embarks on a restructuring spree

Germany said on Wednesday GM should come up with a rescue plan for Opel even as worries mounted that the German-based carmaker would be a victim of GM's global restructuring program.

"At the moment, politicians can't do anything because the necessary concepts from Opel are not available," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday. "And that can't happen without the parent company in Detroit."

General Motors' headquarters in Detroit

General Motors has been buffeted by slumping car sales worldwide

On Tuesday, GM pledged to cut 47,000 jobs worldwide, to close plants, dump brands and slash production, notably in Europe where it seeks to save more than one billion euros ($1.26 billion).

GM subsidiaries in Europe are fearful of the potentially fatal cost-cutting and job losses that might imply for their operations.

GM's European brands include Opel in Germany, Vauxhall in Britain and Saab in Sweden. GM also markets its Chevrolet brand in Europe.

The troubled US carmaker said in its new survival plan that it needed about $6billion from several governments, including Germany, Sweden and the UK.

But Germany has said GM should come up with a plan for Opel if it wanted to get state support.

"The task that now lies ahead of us is a task that Opel needs to address, together with its parent company General Motors," Merkel said. "They have to present a concept that would ensure a positive outcome for Opel."

Fear of job losses in Germany

In Germany, where Opel employs around 26,000 people in four plants, concern over job losses was growing quickly. Press reports have said at least one German plant could be among several European factories slated for closure.

A likely candidate is a site in western Bochum, which last year lost a Nokia mobile telephone plant.

Workers at an Opel plant in Bochum, Germany

Workers at Opel's Bochum plant have been shaken by news that GM is cutting 26,000 jobs outside the US

Opel has been hit badly by problems at its parent company. Opel sales last year declined by more than 10 percent.

Trade unions and local politicians in Germany have been pressing Berlin to inject capital or offer loan guarantees to save jobs at the carmaker. Many have called for Opel to be split from its stricken US parent rather than face being dragged down with it.

GM Europe mulling plan to save jobs

On Wednesday, GM Europe directors and the group's European works committee issued a joint statement saying they had begun talks on a "restructuring process" aimed at seeing how "job cuts and factory closures could be avoided."

A joint statement said management is "prepared to talk about partnerships with and participations by third parties."

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