DOUGLAS A. BOLDUC

GM's rising faith in Opel

Douglas A. Bolduc is Managing Editor at Automotive News Europe.Douglas A. Bolduc is Managing Editor at Automotive News Europe.
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General Motors Chief Financial Officer Chuck Stevens expects that the U.S. automaker’s long-struggling European arm will break even in 2016, achieving a goal that has eluded the unit for more than a decade.

GM has already made big changes in Europe including closing a factory in Bochum, Germany.  "Now we've got the right cost structure," Stevens said on Feb. 3 when announcing the automaker's fourth-quarter and 2015 full-year results

GM Europe, which means Opel and UK-based sister brand Vauxhall, reduced its full-year loss by 43 percent to $800 million last year. Last week, Stevens reiterated the company's "long-standing commitment of breakeven in Europe" this year.

The man tasked with turning around GM Europe -- Opel Group CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann -- is being a bit more cautious with his words.

When Automotive News Europe spoke with Neumann in January, he told us that the target is in sight but he compared the long road to breakeven to a marathon. "The further you go, the harder it gets,” he said. Opel will "fight for these last miles and get across the finish line," he said.

Essentially, both executives are saying the same thing, but with different words.

However, when the CFO at headquarters says he expects that something is going to happen, then the CEO of the satellite unit had better deliver.

The good news is that, according to Neumann, Opel has overachieved on its internal targets for more than two straight years. The CEO and Opel need to keep that winning streak going for another four quarters.

You can reach Douglas A. Bolduc at dbolduc@crain.com.

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