Car workers across Europe await their fate as the sale of General Motors’ European marques – Opel and Vauxhall – goes ahead.
Canadian-Austrian car parts maker Magna will take a majority stake with financial backing from a Russian state bank. GM had to sell as it plunged towards bankruptcy in the United States. John Smith, GM’s chief Opel negotiator said: “General Motors is confident, that the Magna-Sberbank solution really represents the best solution to provide for a sustainable future for the Opel and Vauxhall brands.” GM opted for Magna and its Russian partners over a rival offer from Belgium based investment firm RHJ International. The Magna deal was backed by Berlin as it promised fewer job losses in Germany; that is important for Chancellor Angela Merkel facing a general election later this month. She told reporters: “It is clear that the German government’s patience and purpose has paid off. It was not an easy path. It is now possible for General Motors Europe and Opel to have a new beginning.” With Berlin promising 4.5 billion euros in government loan guarantees, it was quickly confirmed none of the four German plants will close but Antwerp in Belgium will shut. Unions at Vauxhall’s two UK factories said they are waiting for work and remained concerned. Restructuring will mean some 10,000 jobs will go at the European plants, a quarter of those in Germany. One Opel worker was reconciled: “There’s no doubt it’s not going to easy even with Magna and there will be cuts. But there are opportunities and that’s the bottom line.” Another worker said “at least the uncertainty is over now, Magna was the least bad option.” Many details have still to be worked out but GM said it expected the deal to close in a few months.