GUIDO REINKING

It's the beginning of the end for Opel

Guido Reinking is editor-in-chief of Automotive News Europe sister publication Automobilwoche.Guido Reinking is editor-in-chief of Automotive News Europe sister publication Automobilwoche.
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We are seeing a one-of-a-kind occurrence in the 126-year history of the automobile: Opel is being consciously and deliberately ruined.

Within the next 10 years, the Opel lightning bolt will no longer be good for anything but affixing to Chevrolets or Chinese-made cars.

The German automaker will no long have its own development or its own production.

Although comparisons between Opel and Rover have come up, they just don't hold water. In BMW, Rover at least had an owner, for a time, that would invest hundreds of millions in new, competitive products.

We are not seeing this from General Motors today. The investment plan drawn up by former Opel CEO Karl-Friedrich Stracke wasn't even enough to overcome Hyundai's technological lead, much less Volkswagen's.

GM CEO Dan Akerson has thrown out Stracke so even the dismissed Opel boss' inadequate plan is not likely to be executed.

It is no surprise that Opel development chief Rita Forst was pushed out last week. What would a true chief development engineer with a professional view of technological necessities do at GM? Akerson wants quick financial wins. Expensive plans from development engineers just get in the way.

GM's share price has already fallen below $20. After bankruptcy and nationalization, the company was re-privatized at $33 a share in 2010.

One share in three is still in the hands of the U.S. government. The share price has to be pushed up – at Opel's expense. With Akerson and Stephen Girsky, chair of the Opel supervisory board and interim head of GM Europe, GM has brought investment bankers on board who understand fast money but know nothing about the auto business. They are driving Opel into the wall.

No European automaker can make money right now in Europe with its mass-market business. The attempt to gear Opel for profitability will end in disaster.

You can reach Guido Reinking at greinking@craincom.de.

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