New Opel chief draws mixed reactions | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 18.07.2012
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New Opel chief draws mixed reactions

German carmaker Opel has named restructuring expert Thomas Sedran as interim chief after the surprise resignation of former CEO Karl-Friedrich Stracke last week. The pick is viewed with skepticism among industry experts.

Thomas Sedran is Opel's fourth new chief executive within a period of three years. The supervisory board of the General Motors (GM) subsidiary based in Germany said Tuesday that Sedran would only step in for former CEO Karl-Friedrich Stracke "until a permanent replacement can be found."

GM would aim to "cut down bureaucracy" and change "corporate culture," Opel supervisory board chief and GM Europe president Steve Girsky said Tuesday.

The head of Opel's works council, Wolfgang Schäfer-Klug, said the company would need change "urgently."

However, Schäfer-Klug also told news agency dpa that the Opel workers didn't want any more "compromise solutions" but rather a CEO "able to lead Opel's business in a sustainable way.

In addition, he dismissed rumors of imminent factory closures in Germany as "nonsense," arguing that under current market conditions the auto industry was forced to save resources, which would rule out hugely expensive closures of plants.

By contrast, Willi Diez, the head of the Institute of the Automobile Industry (Ifa) wouldn't rule out the closure of Opel's factory in Bochum - the oldest of the carmaker's three factories in Germany.

"It could well turn out that GM is planning to push its Chevrolet brand in European markets to offset Opel's declining market share," he told dpa news agency.

Opel's troubles

Opel's decline was mirrored by the sales figures for the first half of 2012, in which the troubled German carmaker and its Vauxhall sister company in Britain sold 15 percent fewer cars than in the same period 2012.

Former Opel CEO Stracke wanted to stop the slide with a restructuring plan that included new models, the fall of a GM policy preventing Opel to sell cars outside of Europe, as well cost savings through an alliance with France's PSA Peugeot-Citroen.

The plan apparently fell through during talks with GM chief Dan Akerson in last week, causing Stracke to quit his job.

Auto expert Willi Diez described Stracke's restructuring plan - which the former Opel chief worked out in collaboration with Thomas Sedran - as "right."

"Maybe the process wasn't moving quickly enough for GM," Diez told the Reuters news agency.

uhe/msh (dpa, Reuters, AFP)

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