Opel′s Future Remains Unclear Under GM Plan | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 18.02.2009
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Opel's Future Remains Unclear Under GM Plan

Car giant General Motors did not announce specific plans for its German subsidiary, Opel, while requesting millions in aid from the US government. The American company said it plans to cut 47,000 jobs worldwide.

A clock in front of an Opel factory

No one at Opel is sure if time as a part of GM is running out

In a plan presented to the US Treasury Department on Tuesday, Feb. 17, General Motors said it would be cutting jobs, closing factories, eliminating brands and scaling back production as part of a massive restructuring program designed to return the company to "sustainable profitability in 25 months."

"These are the kind of actions we need to take to survive the current industry crisis, and position GM for sustainability and success," said GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner.

Wagoner said GM would need an additional $16 billion from the US government to stay afloat in the coming years. The company received $13.4 billion dollars from the US government in December -- the final $4 billion installment was delivered Tuesday -- but GM said it needed at least another 4.6 billion dollars in the short term to survive.

The company is planning to sell off or phase out its Hummer, Saab and Saturn brands and considering putting German Opel on the block as well.

Talks with national governments continue

Saab and Opel logos

GM may end up selling off both Saab and Opel

"We are in the middle of talking with the different sides, including the German government," Wagoner said of Opel's future while presenting GM restructuring plan.

Options on the table for Opel and GM's Swedish unit Saab include securing loan guarantees from Berlin and Stockholm and spinning off the two businesses as independent entities -- a scenario favored by GM Europe's labor leaders.

In addition to Germany, the struggling US car giant is also in talks with governments in Canada, Sweden, Britain and Thailand for $6 billion "to provide liquidity specifically for GM's operations in these countries," GM said.

Germany is considering taking up a position in Opel if GM is forced to declare bankruptcy, according to a report in Tuesday's Financial Times Deutschland newspaper.

Considered a last resort, the idea was proposed during talks between federal and state government officials in states where Opel factories are located, the paper reported without naming its sources.

Falling sales

A stop sign infront of a car production line

Lower sales figures have led to production halts in some factories

GM sales plunged 49 percent in January as the US automotive industry became further engulfed in the country's worst economic crisis in decades. GM said that another 4.5 billion dollars would be necessary by 2011, but that could rise to 12 billion dollars if the sales climate deteriorates even further.

Chrysler also submitted its restructuring plan earlier Tuesday. The smallest of the "Big Three" US carmakers has received $4 billion from the US government and said it would need a further $5 billion to avoid bankruptcy. It plans to reduce capacity by 100,000 units and slash 3,000 jobs.

The companies have until March 31 to prove to the government they can be commercially viable.

The White House said a government-managed bankruptcy for the automakers remained a possibility, adding that a "strong and viable" US automobile industry was very important for the country. "I wouldn't preclude policy choices, particularly since we haven't seen details on what they think is ultimately going to be most helpful for them," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters.

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