British, German trade ministers support GM Europe sale to Peugeot Citroen

British, German trade ministers support GM Europe sale to Peugeot Citroen

Unions still wary of possible job losses from merger of European brands.

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February 17, 2017
By Robert Schoenberger
Cars/Light trucks Manufacturing Regulations

Cleveland, Ohio – General Motors officials are saying the right things to get European governments to approved a possible bid to sell its Opel and Vauxhall divisions to France’s Peugeot Citroen (PSA Group), though workers are still wary of a deal.

Trade ministers in Opel’s home country of Germany and Vauxhall’s Great Britain say they’ve received assurances that PSA wouldn’t slash employment at the plants at design centers. GM has two Vauxhall plants in Great Britain and eight Opel plants throughout continental Europe – three of those in Germany. Germany also houses a headquarters operation, a technical center, and a design studio.

"I was reassured by GM's intention, communicated to me, to build on the success of these operations rather than rationalize them,” British Business Minister Greg Clark said in a prepared statement, according to several European news services.

Germany’s Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries told reporters from Reuters and other news agencies that she expects the deal to go through and that the government is doing everything it can to preserve jobs.

Len McCluskey, general secretary of the British trade union Unite, says he met with GM President Dan Ammann on Thursday, and based on those talks as requested a meeting with PSA Group CEO Carlos Tavares.

“My immediate priority now is to understand where Peugeot is now in this process, which is why I am contacting the CEO of the company, Carlos Tavares, to request urgent talks,” McCluskey said on the union’s website. “Unite is committed to talking to all the concerned parties in the UK, Germany, and France to ensure that the case for the UK workers is pressed at the highest levels.”

The German government had been very supportive of GM’s last attempt to sell its European businesses in 2009, and European regulators were highly critical of the company’s board of directors after it scuttled the deal to sell Opel and Vauxhall to Canadian auto parts supplier Magna International.

Though the governments tend to fight any job cuts, some plant closures from GM appear inevitable, given the steep financial losses at Opel and Vauxhall. So the discussions with trade ministers throughout Europe may be focusing on how many jobs will be preserved if PSA Group is able to revitalize GM’s business, versus how many would be lost of GM operations continue to decline.

About the author: Robert Schoenberger is the editor of Today's Motor Vehicles and a contributor to Today's Medical Developments and Aerospace Manufacturing and DesignHe has written about the automotive industry for more than 17 years at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio; The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky; and The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi.

rschoenberger@gie.net