Expect GM Europe to renew pursuit of government aid for its Germany-based Opel/Vauxhall operations as it restructures under new management.
Nick Reilly, recently named president-GM Europe following Fritz Henderson’s sudden resignation asCo. CEO, says in a weekend conference call there is no truth to the belief GM has sufficient cash on hand to shore up Opel.
“Much of that money will be needed forand completing restructuring in the US.,” he says, referring to the auto maker’s commitment to support its former captive parts supplier that emerged from bankruptcy in October as Delphi Holdings LLP.
“We also have some of that money in an escrow account for disasters in the U.S., and we can’t touch that,” Reilly says. “Third, the U.S. market remains depressed, and we have to have some money to get us through 2011. We also need to pay back loans to the U.S. government.”
He expresses hope Germany’s government will be as receptive to supporting Opel under GM leadership as it was to the prospect of seeing Opel owned and operated by Canadian mega-supplierInternational Inc. GM’s board scuttled Magna’s planned acquisition of Opel last month.
“We’ve prepared an application for the German government,” Reilly says. “They were willing to support thedeal, so we expect some support for our plan. Financial aid is no different from other car companies in the U.S. or Japan or other European countries.”
Opel needs €1 billion ($1.2 billion) to execute its restructuring and some €3.3 billion ($5 billion) to develop new products, he says, adding the auto maker will not see a profit next year.
Meanwhile, the search for a GM Europe CEO is called off, with Reilly assuming responsibility for both Opel/Vauxhall and Chevrolet Europe. Day-to-day operations at Chevrolet Europe will be managed by Wayne Brannon.
The management shakeup seems to signal the resolve of Ed Whitacre, GM chairman and interim CEO in the wake of Henderson’s departure, to instigate change quickly.
Additional appointments are expected this week, Reilly says, adding development of a minicar is a “top priority” at Opel.
“I want to clarify that we will also need to continue with light-commercial vehicles; that is a reasonable share of our business,” he adds.