The Italian Fiat group says it wants to keep all of the automaker’s German plants if it joins Opel. At the same time, jobs should be eliminated. "We do not want to close any of the four Opel plants in Germany. I need the plants in the future to build enough cars," said Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne of the "Bild" newspaper.
What will happen to the Kaiserslautern plant?
Federal Minister of Economics Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg had previously in the Daily Topics declared that Fiat had promised to receive the three final assembly plants in Russelsheim, Bochum and Eisenach. The fate of the engine and component plant in Kaiserslautern still seems to be open to him.
There, the statements of the Fiat boss were received with reluctance. If Fiat does not want to manufacture components, it is logical that the plant in Kaiserslautern is in question, said Alfred Klingel, chairman of the works council rbb info radio. Guttenberg must now make it clear that in such a case, Opel could not be sold to the Italian car manufacturer.
"Workforces must be downsized"
At the same time, Fiat boss Marchionne made it clear that the Fiat concept for Opel provides for staff cuts. "Of course the workforce has to be reduced," he said. "I can’t tell you today how many employees we need. But there will be fewer." Opel could never make money in its current size, "and if you don’t make money, you can’t survive".
Opel is currently burning money. "That is why the state has to step in with guarantees. But that must not take too long. The state has lost nothing at Opel in the long run," said Marchionne. Guarantees should be repaid in three years at the latest.
The Fiat boss wants to outsource the auto division of his group and merge it with Chrysler and Opel. According to Guttenberg, the Italian group wants to get into Opel without any debts and keep the Opel brand. Marchionne estimated the need for consolidation at five to seven billion euros, but the Opel parent company General Motors had not yet provided any concrete figures on the debts and pension obligations.
Federal government: No pre-determination for Fiat
Guttenberg and Vice Chancellor Frank-Walter Steinmeier made it clear after a conversation with the Fiat boss that the concept would be examined. The two ministers made it clear that there was no pre-determination on a specific investor. According to Steinmeier, the goal is to maintain all German Opel locations in the long term. Guttenberg said they are still waiting with interest on the plan of the Canadian-Austrian auto supplier Magna, which is also interested in Opel.
North Rhine-Westphalia’s Prime Minister Jurgen Ruttgers, in whose state the Opel plant in Bochum is located, said in the ARD that it would show whether Marchionne’s proposals were viable. With a view to the super company planned by Fiat with Chrysler and Opel, he said: "There is an old experience: size alone is no value."
Magna confirms interest
Meanwhile, the Austrian-Canadian auto supplier Magna confirmed its interest in a partnership with Opel. The group announced that it was about potential alternatives for the future of Opel, including the possible takeover of a minority stake.
The state government of Thuringia concretized its plans for possible state aid in the event of an Opel takeover by Fiat or Magna. Economics Minister Jurgen Reinholz (CDU) told the "Berliner Zeitung" that if there was a sensible concept, the country would be ready to help. He could very well imagine "state guarantees and sureties with the help of which Fiat can then obtain cheap credit on the capital market".
Direct local funding through investment aid is also an option. "And finally, for example, we could buy the plant’s property and then lease it back to Opel and Fiat. That would bring the company a large amount of cash immediately."