Whilst Saab’s been kicked in the guts by both friend and foe in Sweden, Opel are enjoying a comparatively soft ride in Germany.
Angela Merkel has been quite open to financing Opel if need be and has left it in the hands of the German states. From Reuters:
German Chancellor Angela Merkel reiterated the government was waiting to see what plans General Motors unit Opel (GM.N) would present before deciding how to help and said each state could decide for itself what to do.
“Opel must present a concept to secure its future and when we have that concept, we will discuss it,” Merkel said at a news conference with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Thursday.
“It must be a decision for every state to decide on aid — yes or no, and in what form.”
….and it seems the states are very willing. This summary from MotorTrend:
German government officials from various states are interested in helping their homeland hero, Opel — one of GM’s major European divisions — through these tough financial times. Like its parent company, Opel has suffered dearly in vehicle sales and overall profit numbers. Recent news emanating from government and GM meetings has indicated none of the brand’s four German plants will get closed, and if need be, the states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Thuringia will consider offering financial support, per their terms in a vast restructuring plan.
North Rhine-Westphalia leaders stated in an interview with Reuters that aid will only go Opel’s way if the company adheres to its stipulations — much the same way Congress is doing with GM as we speak. An example of some terms include the automaker keeping four plants (as aforementioned) as well as all patents and branding rights, should it be turned independent.
Thuringia state officials are prepared to take a direct stake in Opel, should the opportunity arise.
So the question must be asked, as have some have done in comments – what about Opel spinning off from GM taking Saab under its wing?
My thoughts are pretty simplistic, but there’s a few things in play here.
First, Opel would have to actually spin off from GM and there’s no guarantee that that would happen. Opel are in a reasonably good position, but the mothership has demanded further cost cutting from GME (around 1.2 billion) and Opel’s a prime candidate for some slashing.
The second, and perhaps more contentious part of this, is that Opel and Saab don’t seem to get along too well.
This isn’t reported, but it’s come to me from various sources in the last months.
One source who was very much in a position to know, told me quite plainly that Opel were pretty unhappy that Saab got to develop and use Haldex’s XWD system, for instance.
Another has told me that not only would Germany jump at the chance to shore up Opel, but also that if Saab were carved out, Opel employees would quite happily help them pack.
Another recently mentioned in conversation that the phone lines between Opel and Saab were virtually cold, that they don’t attend meetings and basically, that the relationship has frosted over.
Whilst I’m in favour of (almost) anything that will save Saab and allow them to become the automotive company that they could be, I worry that a Saab/Opel thing would just be the continuation of a Saab/GM thing. It could work, but I worry about Opel’s upmarket ambitions and how much they’d seemingly love to push Saab aside.
If it works, great, but I’m feeling a little skeptical.