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Opel under the PSA banner

Germany
06.03.2017
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
After GM-PSA deal for Opel, what's in store for the German carmaker?
The sale of the German carmaker Opel by General Motors to the French is sealed. In Germany people are asking: What is in store for Opel under the PSA banner?
GALLERY
Frankfurt (dpa) - A "European Champion" is what Carlos Tavares, head of the French automotive group PSA, has in mind for the future after the takeover of German carmaker Opel.

But until the two sides can become a championship team, experts say, really tough restructuring steps will be needed. Above all, the fear can be felt at the Opel factories where, after the separation from the US parent concern General Motors, thousands of jobs stand to be lost.

Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, one of Germany‘s top automotive industry experts, says he foresees no potential for Opel to gain additional markets or substantially boost its sales. PSA and Opel, with their similar range of models, are both too strongly focused on Europe, and both have steadily lost market share. It was only due to drastic cost-cutting that Tavares managed to return PSA to the profit zone - something that now could be in store for Opel.

"In the end, it‘s the buyer who will do what he wants," consultant Marc Staudenmayer commented to the German business publication Manager Magazin about PSA‘s possible actions. Tavares could "easily" slash 10,000 jobs if he goes about tightening production structures and makes Paris the central hub of operations.

Pledges about preserving Opel‘s independence and job guarantees for Opel‘s 38,000 employees through the end of 2018 look to be of little value, Staudenmayer contends. By the standards of major corporate takeovers, these guarantees will end virtually the day after tomorrow.

German unions knew that they would have had to renegotiate new wage and job deals with GM, and so now they are very keen to be involved in the planning of the new parent concern. The metalworkers union IG Metall as a result has refrained from any public criticism or shows of strength.
"In the end, its the buyer who will do what he wants," consultant Marc Staudenmayer commented to the German business publication Manager Magazin about PSAs possible actions. Tavares could "easily" slash 10,000 jobs if he goes about tightening production structures and makes Paris the central hub of operations.

Wolfgang Schaefer-Klug, head of Opel‘s European-wide works council, is searching beyond Germany‘s borders for common strategies, a bid that utterly failed on another occasion, during the Opel crisis of 2009. Then, British unionists approved a major wage cut on condition that the Vauxhall plant at Ellesmere be kept open but that plants in Antwerp, Belgium and Bochum, Germany, be shut down.

Automotive industry expert Stefan Bratzel from the technical college Bergisch-Gladbach says a downsizing, even with Opel‘s car sales of more than 4 million per year, is virtually unavoidable. Overlapping structures in marketing, purchasing and sales will have to be eliminated and production capacities reduced. This won‘t take place without job losses.

PSA has already undergone a tough revamping, with nearly 30,000 jobs slashed since 2011. And Opel‘s two Vauxhall plants would look to be preserved, albeit slimmed down, to get them ready to produce for the domestic market after Britain leaves the European Union. What would be left would be for Opel‘s plants in Ruesselsheim, Kaiserslautern and Eisenach in Germany vying for survival against other Opel works in Poland, Spain and Austria.

Just which direction the new group will be heading can be seen in the current lineup of models that resulted from the cooperation between PSA and GM starting in 2012. Largely identical in their construction, the Crossland X (Opel), the Citroen C3 Picasso and the Peugeot 2008 are seen on the roads - all of them built at Opel‘s plant in Saragossa.

"Everything that you can see and touch is from Opel," says Crossland head engineer Olaf Kaden about the three models. The rest comes largely from PSA modular kits and is built on the French car platform.

Such jointly produced models pose numerous cost advantages, and not just in purchasing. Once tried-and-tested components start to be used in one model, then painstaking testing and certification work is no longer needed for use in another model. The wheel doesn‘t need to be reinvented over and over again.

Yet, despite having many identical parts, individualized fine-tuning of cars is still possible. German engineers and customers put more emphasis on stable road handling, whereas the French give priority to comfort. At the moment, two further jointly developed cars are emerging from PSA‘s main plant in Sochaux and in the north Spanish city of Vigo.

 

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