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Opel Speeds Up Restructuring, Will Close German Plant Early

GM takes advantage of union misstep.

by on Apr.19, 2013

An Opel Zafira body moves along the line at the Bochum assembly plant.

General Motors’ long-troubled Opel subsidiary plans to close an unneeded plant in Bochum, Germany by the end of 2014, a move that will come several years ahead of its original plan thanks to a major misstep by the powerful metalworkers union IG Metall.

The move could be critical as Opel moves to speed up a broad restructuring strategy aimed at capping what is likely to be a 15th year of massive losses that have led some analysts to call on GM to close or sell off its European operations.

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Opel is just one of a number of European makers aiming to rein in excess capacity at a time when the Continental auto market has sunk to its lowest level in decades – Ford, for example, will shutter two British facilities and a larger plant in Belgium in 2014. But the closure of Bochum, where 3,000 are currently employed producing models like the Zafira van, would mark the first time a major auto plant has been shuttered in Germany since the end of World War II.

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Opel Cascada Anchors “10-Year Action Plan”

GM’s new European boss puts in first appearance.

by on Mar.08, 2013

New Opel CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann and the Opel Cascada convertible.

General Motors can only hope it gets a warm reception for the new Opel Cascada convertible making its debut at the Geneva Motor Show this week, as it anchors the maker’s crucial “10-Year action plan.”

The past decade hasn’t been a very good one for Opel, which has plunged in sales and market share, helping GM run up European losses of $18 billion since plunging into the red there in 1999. Steve Girsky, the General Motors Vice Chairman who was put in charge of devising the action plan formally handed the reins over to GM Europe’s new boss, Karl-Thomas Neumann, during the Opel news conference.

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“My goal is to steer Opel back to its former strength and glory,” declared Neumann, who previously served in a senior management role at GM’s arch-rival Volkswagen AG. And the key to that, he said, was the plan formally known as “Drive 2022.”

While there are a variety of cost-cutting measures in the program, the crucial piece is the launch of new products, such as the new Cascada and the recently introduced Opel Adam. In all, the maker intends to launch 23 new vehicles and 13 new powertrain packages over the next five years alone.

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GM Snatches New European Chief from VW

Neumann will be pressed to pick up the pace of cuts.

by on Feb.01, 2013

New GM Europe chief Karl-Thomas Neumann.

General Motors has recruited a former Volkswagen executive to run its beleaguered European operations, which have fallen ever deeper into the red for 13 consecutive years.

Karl-Thomas Neumann was named president of GM Europe, chairman of the management board of GM’s Germany-based Adam Opel AG and GM vice president. He was most recently CEO of Volkswagen’s flourishing China division.

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The 51-year-old industry veteran will be given the unenviable task of righting an operation that has run up billions of dollars in losses and largely squandered its once solid reputation in Germany and the rest of the European market. GM has confirmed it will have lost as much as $1.8 billion in Europe once final numbers are tallied for 2012.

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Key Analyst Wants GM to Dump Opel

Opel is not for sale, responds GM CEO.

by on Jan.16, 2013

Opel is betting models like the new Adam can help turn things around -- along with job and plant cuts.

General Motors would be further ahead if walked away from its ownership of Adam Opel AG even it had to pay another automaker to take it off its hands, said one of the auto industry’s most influential analysts.

Adam Jonas, a managing director of Morgan Stanley, told the Automotive News World Congress the value of GM’s shares could increase by as much as 50% if it unloaded its ailing European business – something the maker has so far refused to consider.

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The fact is the efforts to turn around Opel have been slow, painful and expensive and nowhere near complete, said Jonas. Meanwhile, Opel has piled up $17 billion in losses since 1999. GM Chairman Dan Akerson has said he doesn’t expect GM to become profitable in Europe for another three years despite its latest turnaround plan’s draconian measures.

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GM Steps Up European Restructuring

Sells off French plant.

by on Jan.02, 2013

GM V. Chairman Steve Girsky continues to move forward on the European turnaround effort.

General Motors has reached an agreement that will step up the pace of the restructuring of its European operations by selling off the GM Powertrain operation in Strasbourg, France.

The plant is being sold to Punch Metals International, a private-equity company controlled by the industrial investor Guido Dumarey. Terms of the deal were not spelled out but GM stressed the company’s responsibility vis-as-vis its employees and community.

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Adam Opel AG, GM’s principal subsidiary in Europe, announced plans to close an assembly plant in Bochum, Germany next year. It’s one of the more aggressive steps in a desperate turnaround plan put together by GM vice Chairman Steve Girsky who has been charged with reversing more than a decade of severe losses at GM Europe — the maker recently forecasting it would post another deficit of as much as $1.4 billion in Europe for 2012.

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GM Europe Won’t Break Even Until Mid-Decade

Further plant closings possible.

by on Nov.01, 2012

GM Vice Chairman Steve Girsky leads a new team trying to right the maker's European ship.

Despite an intense turnaround effort that will include plant closings, job cuts, a management shake-up – and a flood of new product – General Motors doesn’t expect its hemorrhaging European operations to be back in the black until mid-decade, according to the executive overseeing that rescue effort.

In the near-term, losses are continuing to mount, $478 million for the third quarter, and the maker upping the projected deficit for all of 2012 to somewhere between $1.5 billion and $1.8 billion. GM Europe has consistently run in the red since 1999, total losses now expected to top $17 billion by year-end.

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But the picture isn’t entirely bleak. GM’s German-based Opel subsidiary has received strongly positive reviews – and a flurry of orders – for new products such as the compact Mokka crossover and Adam minicar, and GM Europe actually going into the black from a cashflow basis for the July – September quarter.

That was “a positive step in this difficult environment for a company that hasn’t had much positive news” in recent years, suggested Steve Girsky, the former Wall Street automotive analyst who now serves as GM Vice Chairman – and who was put in charge of the European turnaround early this year.

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Madam, I’m Adam

Critical Opel minicar makes Paris debut, targets Fiat 500.

by on Sep.27, 2012

The new Adam Opel is one of 23 new models the maker promises over the next 4 years.

Opel had the rapt attention of its audience as it pulled the covers off the new Adam minicar to help kick off the 2012 Paris Motor Show Thursday morning.

Make that rapped attention, though it was clear by the puzzled look on the faces of most of the journalists attending the early morning preview that the fast-paced presentation by a half-dozen rap artists was a lot more difficult to follow than the usual executive speech.

No matter, the new Opel Adam is aimed at a decidedly different audience – though it could be one of the most important models to emerge from the German maker’s product development studios in a number of years.  The Adam is the first of a promised 23 vehicles the General Motors subsidiary will roll out over the next four years in its effort to turnaround years of devastating losses.

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If a first glance sparks a sense of déjà vu that’s no surprise.  The Adam is clearly aimed at such popular European microcars as the Fiat 500.  It boasts a similar, tall hatch-like shape, with a chrome accent line wrapping around the cars “greenhouse.”

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GM Won’t Abandon Opel

Maker reveals 23 new models in the works.

by on Sep.20, 2012

GM CEO Dan Akerson (r) and Vice Chairman Steve Girsky driving a classic 1960 Corvette.

Despite mounting losses that could near $2 billion this year – and increasing demands that it abandon its troubled European operations – General Motors insists it remains committed to a turnaround at the Opel brand.

The maker hopes to reverse what will likely be its 14th consecutive year of losses by rolling out a procession of new products – at the same time it takes steps to slash costs and reduce excess capacity.

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But critics contend GM could be running out of time and suggest that its fiasco in Europe is a major factor suppressing its stock price and holding back a long-sought upgrade in its debt rating.

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GM Set to Slash Opel White Collar Jobs

Desperate automaker looking for options.

by on Sep.13, 2012

Opel continues to struggle for a turnaround.

Adam Opel AG, the heart of General Motors European operations, is apparently preparing to take a meat ax to its administrative staff in Germany.

Opel, which is now under new management following the latest corporate shake-up, wants to cut 1,000 of 3,300 administration jobs at its Ruesselsheim, Germany, headquarters, according to Frankfurt Allgemeine Zeitung which cited two supervisory board members who didn’t want to be named.

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GM recently put its Vice Chairman Steve Girsky in charge of coming up with a turnaround plan for its European operations – hoping to stem losses that are expected to reach between $1.5 billion and $2 billion this year, the 13th consecutive annual loss for the subsidiary.

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Analysts Call on GM to Dump Opel

“Find a new home” for faltering brand.

by on Sep.06, 2012

GM CEO Dan Akerson is coming under increasing pressure to fix -- or dump -- Opel.

General Motors Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson recently let his guard down for a brief moment, hinting GM made a mistake by not selling off its Opel brand back in 2009, shortly after the U.S. giant emerged from bankruptcy.

Apparently, a growing list of analysts and other observers would agree, warning that the U.S. maker simply won’t be able to stop the hemorrhaging of the German-based Opel which is now heading for a 13th year of red ink.

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“One of the worst things in the auto industry is owning a cash-burning, resource-consuming business,” warns Adam Jonas, lead auto analyst for Morgan Stanley, who has now downgraded GM shares to “overweight,” largely due to the continuing problems the maker has in Europe. “We believe the time has come for GM to find a new home for Opel.”

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