General Motors has decidedly not finished playing with Europeans’ nerves. The American car manufacturer provoked astonishment and indignation at the beginning of November by declining to cede its European brands to Magna. The Austro-Canadian equipment manufacturer had worked for months on this takeover project; had negotiated hand in hand with each of the countries housing an Opel or Vauxhall site; and, finally, established a plan, very painfully, but doubtless indispensable in order to refloat the European brand. Little by little, spirits had accustomed themselves to this future purge.
By choosing to keep Opel, GM could have kept this exact plan. All the more so because, like Magna, it thought 9,000 jobs needed to be cut and that there is 20 percent unutilized capacity in Old Europe. But instead, GM preferred to lay off its 50,000 European workers. The cuts will be severe, especially in Germany and Belgium. But GM continues to remain vague on the details.
What’s worse, for a week now, it has not ceased complimenting the performance of sites that will doubtless be affected. “You are tremendous and indispensable,” explained Nick Reilly, the new head of GM Europe, to the German workers in Bochum and Eisenach, the Spanish in Saragossa and the British in Luton. This makes it harder to accept the coming sacrifices. Is GM indecisive? Opportunistic, rather. The American car manufacturer has understood that it will have difficulty returning to the company of worldwide automobile giants if it definitively deprives itself of its European base.
But, GM also knows that its still shaky health will not allow it to finance the 3.3 billion Euros necessary for the restoration of Opel. Thus, it plays the seduction game in order to convince the states to ante up. Free to later pass for a liar.