FRANKFURT (Reuters) -- Opel labor leader Klaus Franz branded Volkswagen's threat to pull business from supplier Magna International Inc. if it acquires Opel as "tantamount to blackmail."
Magna is in a close race with Belgian finance group RHJ International to gain majority control of General Motors Co.s Opel unit, which is VW's closest German rival.
VW CEO Martin Winterkorn said on Friday that VW viewed Magna's Opel bid with suspicion and would reconsider doing business on complex components with the supplier.
Franz fired back at Winterkorn, hoping to quash a harmful debate in its infancy regarding whether a supplier like Magna should compete directly with its customers by acquiring a carmaker.
"The threat not to award Magna with contracts is tantamount to blackmail," Franz said.
"Whoever says a rescue of Opel through Magna poses a competitive disadvantage is hoping for the downfall of Opel in order to gain an edge for himself and reduce his own overcapacities at the cost of Opel," he said.
Franz said VW has enjoyed state support for decades because VW's home state of Lower Saxony has a 20 percent stake in the Wolfsburg-based carmaker.
Magna has made repeated assurances to cleanly separate its supplier operations with any automotive operations.
Ford Motor Co, whose German-based European unit is also a close rival to Opel, is not worried about Magna winning control of Opel.
"We've had discussions with Magna about ensuring the appropriate safeguards for our intellectual property," Ford Motor Co. Chief Financial Officer Lewis Booth said earlier this month. "We'll work with Magna to make sure we mitigate any ramifications."
Analysts have been skeptical whether VW really would pull business away from Magna, since VW is the biggest customer of Faurecia, a major European supplier that is majority owned by French carmaker PSA/Peugeot-Citroen.
Magna International's Magna Steyr unit in Austria manufactures the BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz G class, Chrysler 300C, Jeep Commander and Grand Cherokee for three different customers.
It will even expand production in the future to include making the Rapide four-door coupe for Aston Martin and the Boxster/Cayman line for Porsche, indicating that it has successfully managed to convince carmakers that technology developed in tandem does not leak to other carmakers.