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UAW’s King Joins Opel Supervisory Board

An ulterior motive?

by on Mar.30, 2012

UAW President Bob King.

Bob King, the President of the United Auto Workers Union, is taking on a new role as member of the supervisory board of Adam Opel AG, General Motors’ principal European subsidiary.

King was appointed Wednesday by IG Metall, the German’s metalworkers union, to serve as a representative on Opel AG’s Supervisory Board as a labor representiative – unions typical hold such seats in Germany but bringing onboard an American labor labor is a unique move. King’s appointment is effective June 1, UAW spokeswoman Michele Martin confirmed.

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King’s appointment to the supervisory board, which under German law has the authority to hire and fire Opel’s management and challenge its strategy, thrusts him into the middle of complicated negotiations between GM and Opel on one wide and IG Metall on the other.

After losing over $700 million last year, compounding a decade of losses, Opel is readying a turnaround plan expected to call for the closing of one, and possibly two of its assembly plants.  One is, in turn, likely to be in Germany.


GM Ousts Opel Board as Losses Mount

European subsidiary expected to report $1 bil in red ink.

by on Feb.15, 2012

Opel may love autos but it isn't getting much love from parent GM.

General Motors Corp.’s year-end financial report is expected to show some very good numbers. The exception is Europe where the company’s chronic problems with its German-based Opel subsidiary remain unresolved and losses could exceed $1 billion — just as they did in 2010.

GM chairman Dan Ackerson flatly stated last summer Opel is not for sale. He also dispatched GM vice chairman Steve Girsky, perhaps his most trusted lieutenant, to Germany to fix Opel.  And the one-time auto analyst has been busy shaking things up.

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Girsky’s latest move has been to completely shake up Opel’s supervisory board which, under Germany unique corporate governance system, is responsible for hiring and firing the executives on Opel’s board of management.


Opel to Cut 8,300 Jobs, Close Belgian Plant

Further cuts could follow as part of restructuring.

by on Jan.21, 2010

With Astra production to move elsewhere, troubled Opel is closing its plant in Antwerp.

At least 8,300 jobs will be cut and an assembly plant in Antwerp, Belgium closed, as part of a broad restructuring by General Motors’ troubled Opel subsidiary.

It had previously been reported that the company was considering the shutdown of two plants and at least 10,000 job cuts, so further moves could be in store as the German-based Opel takes aim at an underutilized manufacturing base and a bloated cost structure.

“Opel has to reduce its production capacity by 20%,” said Nick Reilly, Opel’s new CEO.  The job cuts and closure, he added, reflect “the tough reality of the current economic environment.”

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While some parts of Europe have been showing financial momentum, in recent months, much of the Continent’s southern tier, countries including Spain, Italy and Greece, are economic basket cases, and that’s translating into a perilously weak automotive market.

Reilly estimated 2010 European car sales would decline 1.5 million units compared to 2009 and would tally 4 million fewer than 2007.

But even without these problems, Opel has been struggling for a number of years and wouldn’t have survived without a bridge loan from the German government, last year.  In turn, Berlin pressed GM to sell a majority stake in the subsidiary before it would offer additional aid.  A deal with the Canadian mega-supplier Magna International fell through, late in 2009, when the new GM board decided Opel was too valuable an asset to relinquish.  The U.S. maker is now seeking alternative aid from European governments and pushing through a massive restructuring.

The need to trim production has been a given, for Opel, for more than a year, and the Antwerp facility was given little chance of survival considering it had been scheduled to lose production of the Astra, one of Opel’s mainstays.  The Belgian government had offered more than $700 million in aid to GM, hoping to stave off closure, but the bid was rejected.

It’s unclear if and when further cuts cut follow.