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Susan Docherty, GM’s former US sales and marketing boss, will become head of GM’s Chevrolet Europe division starting on January 1st, 2012. Docherty will be succeeding Wayne Brannon, who will be retiring after 38 years with GM. Docherty, 49, will be overseeing the growth of GM’s Chevrolet and Cadillac brands in western and central Europe.
Docherty is currently serving as GM’s head of international sales and marketing operations, but in the past has also served in various sales and marketing roles with GM including general manager of Hummer and marketing director for Cadillac. Docherty is a native of Canada and has also held marketing roles in GM’s offices in Zurich, Switzerland and Ruesselsheim, Germany.
A successor to Docherty’s current role will be announced at a later date. Docherty is looking forward to the new challenge to grow GM’s business in Europe.
It’s no secret that General Motors’ European arm, Opel/Vauxhall has been struggling. With an ongoing debt crisis in Europe, high labor costs in Germany and regional status, Opel is finding the going difficult against many rival automakers in its homeland, including traditional competitor VW, whose tentacles stretch far beyond the boundaries of Europe.
Last year, Adam Opel AG lost some $1.6 billion and although GM has been looking at plans to sell the ailing company, recent news suggests that it plans to keep Opel under it’s wing, at least for the time being. One aspect which would appear to confirm that is the appointment of Stephen Girsky to the role of chairman of the board, replacing Nick Reilly who is officially retiring.
During a recent statement, Girsky said that “in order to fully leverage [Opel's] potential we will continue to work on optimizing the cost structure, improve margins and make use of economies of scale within the group.”
One of the biggest obstacles is very high assembly costs, which have continued to put a major dent in Opel’s profitability even though its research and development arm remains first rate. In order to help deal with that issue, as well as Germany’s powerful IG Metall manufacturing union, GM is bringing in Peter Thom as it’s Opel manufacturing chief. Thom’s is armed with experience working in China and a mandate to significantly cut costs, two things that will no doubt have far reaching effects.
General Motors will look to expand its lineup of extended range electric cars to three models by the time the current Chevrolet Volt’s production cycle has run its course. At least that is GM’s plan for the European market under the Opel/Vauxhall brands where GM has just launched the sister car to the Volt, the Opel Ampera.
According to a report by AutoCar, the new models will arrive in 2015, with the most important being a successor to the original Volt, which will grow in size.
According to GM Europe president Nick Reilly, the ‘Ampera’ family of cars will also include a Astra-sized hatchback, as well as a five-seater crossover – likely based on the Volt MPV5 concept (above), which debuted earlier this year at the Beijing Motor Ahow.
The cost for producing vehicles like the Volt is predicted to decline significantly says Reilly, commenting that GM believes the electrical components required to build the Volt’s powertrain will drop in price by 50 percent over the next five years. Those cost savings, combined with increased popularity of EVs and continued government incentives will drive of demand of such vehicles in the future, allowing GM to expand its lineup to meet the market.
GALLERY: Chevrolet Volt MPV5 Concept
Earlier this week, GM announced "no decision" on which of the two rival bidders would get Opel
After announcing earlier this week that it has not reached a deal to sell Opel, General Motors is now apparently exploring options to keep the European unit.
This news comes as a surprise considering selling off Opel is a part of the company’s viability plan as submitted to the U.S. government in order to receive $50 billion in funding. In order to do so GM would reportedly need to raise $4.3 billion, which seems unlikely for a company that is still suffering from decreased sales and has only recently emerged from bankruptcy.
Earlier this week GM announced that it did not come to a decision on which of the two rival candidates it woud choose to sell Opel to. GM has received significant pressure from the German government to accept a deal from Canadian autoparts maker Magna Internatinal, but board members have been opposed to the deal, mostly because it could provide some of Magna’s Russian backers with technology that would allow them to compete with GM.
The German government favors the Magna deal over competing bidder RHJ International because Magna has agreed to keep jobs in Germany. The German government is offering $6.4 billion in loans to help the Magna purchase go through.
Apparently a new deal by RHJ would allow GM to keep some control over Opel and even allow the automaker to buy it back.
GM board members are currently in talks with the German government, where the Opel situation has become a national issue in the country’s upcoming elections. GM’s best case scenario would see the German government secure loans under a sale to RHJ, but so far German Chancelor Angela Merkel has not shown any interest in RHJ.
[Source: The Detroit News]
Deal contingent on additional investment, bank loans
General Motors has signed an agreement to sell off its Swedish Saab unit to the Koenigsegg Group. Led by supercar maker Koenigsegg, the group includes several additional investors. The deal will see the Koenigsegg Group take a 100 percent stake in Saab.
In a statement Koenigsegg Group CEO Christian von Koenigsegg said that the group plans to “transform Saab into a stand-alone vibrant entrepreneurial company and make it ‘sustainable’ by making it profitable.”
The deal is still contingent on additional funding, which Koenigsegg plans to raise through government loans and additional investors. According to a report in the Swedish newspaper Dagens Industri, a Koenigsegg Group executive said that the company requires $413.6 million in additional investments. Currently the Swedish government is reviewing a plan to secure a loan from the European Investment Bank.
Both Koenigsegg and General Motors seem to have differing opinions on how long it will take for the funding issue to be solved. Koenigsegg spokeswoman Halldora von Koenigsegg said she expects funding to be secured by in a month, while the less-optimistic GM is reported to have the end of 2009 pegged as a deadline to finalize the sale.
Additional specific terms of the agreement are not known, but it is expected that GM will supply the Koenigsegg Group with resources to assist in developing one additional model. Currently Saab is set to launch its latest model, the 2010 9-5 (pictured above) at the Frankfurt Auto Show.
[Source: Automotive News]
After continued rumors that General Motors was still shopping-around its European Opel operations, it appears as though a new buyer has been found. RHJ International, a Belgian company has been cited as the latest bidder and apparently a tentative deal could be signed by the end of the week.
Initially Opel was slated to be sold to Canadian autoparts manufacturer Magna International, but those plans have hit several roadblocks. Magna’s deal did not guarantee the same amount of job protection to Opel’s German workforce and so it put in jeopardy a $2.1 billion loan from the German government. Additionally, GM was not excited about the prospect of handing over its technology so that Magna and Russian partners Sberbank and GAZ could use it to build vehicles for the Russian market.
The deal put forward by RHJ, on the other hand, is more likely to be attractive to the German government and GM would not have to fear competition in the Russian marketplace.
According to the Financial Times, however, the RHJ deal is more attractive because of one factor, the price. An initial bid by the holding company had GM sign an agreement with Magna instead, but apparently RHJ has now upped its offer.
According to the Financial Times, GM could sign tentative agreements with both companies, meaning that the sale of Opel to Magna is not completely out of the question.
One of the other Opel bidders, China’s Beijing Automotive Industry Corp., is also expected to make GM a more attractive offer in the near future.
So it looks like Opel is in hot demand and GM is back in the driver’s seat as it looks to get the most for its European operations and emerge from bankruptcy in the best financial state possible.
[Source: Automotive News]
General Motors has officially announced it has reached a tentative deal to sell its Swedish Saab brand to a group of companies lead by Swedish supercar-maker Koenigsegg.
The deal will see the Koenigsegg group receive $600 million in funding from the European Investment Bank, which has been guaranteed by the Swedish government.
GM will provide Saab with platform and powertrain technology for an undisclosed period of time, while Saab is set to begin production of the next generation 9-5 in the near future at its plant in Trollhättan, Sweden.
“The proposed agreement will enable us to maximize the brand’s potential through an exciting new product line-up with a distinctly Swedish character. Today’s announcement is great news for Saab’s current and future customers, dealers, suppliers and employees around the globe, said Jan Ake Jonsson, Managing Director of Saab.
“This is yet another significant step in the reinvention of GM and its European operations,” said GM Europe President, Carl-Peter Forster. “Saab is a highly respected automotive brand with great potential. Closing this deal represents the best chance for Saab to emerge a stronger company. Koenigsegg Group’s unique combination of innovation, entrepreneurial spirit and financial strength, combined with Koenigsegg’s proven ability to create world-class Swedish performance cars in a highly efficient manner, made it the right choice for Saab as well as for General Motors.”
Koenigsegg’s acquisition of Saab is expected to be completed by the third-quarter of this year.
Successful Saturn Bid Could See Opel-Based Saturns Built in Canada
By solidifying a deal to take control of GM’s European operations, Canada’s Magna International Inc. is eager to start producing Opel cars in Canada.
“We want to build Opel cars in Canada,” said company founder and CEO Frank Stronach. “Canada should have its own Canadian company … a truly Canadian automobile industry.”
The third largest auto parts supplier in the world, Magna certainly has the resources and the know-how – it just doesn’t have the facilities to build cars in Canada. That, however, might all change as Chrysler may close operations and General Motors Canada recently shut down its truck plant in Oshawa, Ontario.
The lower value of the Canadian currently would likely help matters and should be enough to easily offset the cost of shipping vehicles to Europe – although it’s not clear that Canadian-built cars would be for the European market, as moving production outside of Germany would certainly be a devastating public relations move.
What Stronach may have in mind is for Opel-based cars to be built in Canada for distribution in Canada and the U.S. As Magna is also currently bidding to take control of Saturn from GM, it’s entirely possible that production of those models, all but one of which are based on Opel vehicles, could happen in Magna’s backyard.
There is also a strong possibility that Magna will expand into the Russian car market.
Magna’s partners in the Opel deal include Sberbank of Russia and both Stronach and Magna have strong ties to Russia. Stronach actually did work as an auto industry adviser for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Russian Magna investor Oleg Deripaska (the owner of Russian truck maker GAZ) has had long standing aspirations to sell consumer cars.
Building Opel models in Russia is a strong possibility, however, it is unlikely those models would be exported to Europe.
General Motors is expected to announce final candidates for the sale of Saturn in the next few weeks.
[Source: The Globe and Mail]
Apparently General Motors CEO Fritz Henderson thinks the upcoming Saab 9-5 is so good, he doesn’t want to sell the Swedish automaker. In an interview in Sweden’s Expressen magazine he declares that he’d rather see Saab fail in bankruptcy court than sell off the brand.
The magazine cites an unnamed source within Saab, who says Henderson does not want the 9-5 as a competitor in the future. Internal GM testing has apparently shown that the car is far superior to a major competitor, the Opel Insignia – which the source says the Germans at Opel confirmed.
The article goes on to suggest that because of how good the upcoming 9-5 is Henderson would prefer to see Saab sold to Fiat along with the rest of GM Europe – an arrangement that could either see GM retaining a stake in GM Europe, or gaining a stake in Fiat.
We do, however, have a hard time believing that with Saab’s niche market status and small production numbers that any major automaker could see the company mounting a significant threat.