After months of jawboning, the Opel-Magna deal was agreed in principle, but it didn’t take long for voices off to start shouting it down.
Unions in Britain, Belgium and Spain moaned that they were losing proportionately more jobs than the Germans, hardly surprising given the previous German government’s huge financial contribution.
But perhaps too late, pan-European employers federation Business Europe said the whole idea was a mistake.
“I’m totally against the decision that the federal German government has taken,” said Juergen Thumann, president of Business Europe.
“We would have been much better off if we had a structured insolvency. That would have left Opel in Europe in a much stronger position,” he told the Financial Times in an interview.
“We have to face up to the fact that capacity in the automotive industry at the moment is too high, both globally and in Europe. If you believe in the social market economy and competition, you have to accept that the weakest will leave the market they’re serving and the strongest will survive. If governments try to influence this process, it starts getting very dangerous,” he said.
The deal, which GM wants to close by November 30, agreed that Opel-Vauxhall would be owned by Magna with 27.5 per cent, Russia’s Sberbank 27.5 per cent, GM 35 per cent and the unions 10 per cent.
In an editorial, The Wall Street Journal described the deal as a bailout for Chancellor Angela Merkel, not Opel.
“The Opel deal is designed to save Merkel’s campaign, not the auto maker,” the newspaper said.
The WSJ said there was one last hope that the deal would be shot down.
“E.U. Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes promised that she will ensure the deal is “based on commercial considerations, designed to sustain viable jobs, and not protectionist motives”. Brussels may be the German taxpayers’ last, best hope for saving them from Berlin’s campaign follies,” it said.
Neil Winton – October 1, 2009