• Feb 26, 2009
Just as Saab and Saturn find their futures uncertain as General Motors tries to unload as much liability as possible, so do the automaker's European brands: Opel and its counterpart in the UK, Vauxhall. Europeans, however, have a different way of dealing with the finality of job loss than we Americans do. Where we Yanks might be more inclined to form a picket line and solicit honks of support from people driving by, Europeans like to get out on the street and protest... en masse. So on the same day that General Motors released a 2008 earnings report that was worse than expected, thousands of its workers in Europe marched outside factories in solidarity.

Reports say that protests have sprung up at two Opel factories in Germany as well as sites run by GM in Britain, France, Spain and Hungary. The best hope these workers have for their brands' survival is that GM spins off Opel and Vauxhall. Whether the two brands are sold to a third party or the spin-off is financed by a group of European Union countries is yet to be determined, if it ever will be. No one seems to be in the market for auto brands these days and, as EU officials admit, there's no precedent for pooling the resources of multiple countries to save a company. And just like the U.S. requested viability plans, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is demanding a "sustainability company concept" before her country would consider giving GM any aid.

[Source: Detroit Free Press | Photo by Ralph Orlowski/Getty]


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  • 20 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      I've haven't seen that many Germans rallying together, with red flags, since................................................................never mind.
      • 5 Years Ago
      What exactly are they protesting, and to whom?

      1. That GM's business practices are so abysmal as to sink the company?
      2. That GM's products are so abysmal as to sink the company?
      3. That Europe's great nations won't hand GM billions of euros to live a little longer?
      4. That when GM folds, there won't be other jobs readily available?
      5. That when GM folds, there won't be a golden parachute for the workers?
      6. That they missed all the clear signs of GM's demise for the last decade?

      Protesting is helpful if your group has some power, but unfortunately I'd suggest these people start making new career plans quickly.
      • 5 Years Ago
      EvolutionVII: "They have way better and more reliable cars than most of the US GM brands ever will have."
      Swede: "...unlike the american offerings, Opel and Saab are _good cars_. "

      You guys need to get in touch with modern times. Like much of the rest of the world, your judgments are based on the US auto industry circa the late 1970s. Just to be absolutely clear, what you consider top echelon luxury brands over there: BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Ferrari, Lamborghini, etc.--all rank at the bottom of quality charts over here in the US. They're pretty good (especially compared to many older models) but not nearly as good as Japanese or American cars, and are really not cheap to maintain once they get older.

      Now if you are talking design and features such as interior--well, most Opel/Vauxhalls up until just the last couple of years were a sea of cheap gray plastic. This is probably a large reason why the Astra failed to sell in the US. GM's American models have their own issues (such as weak offerings in the small car arena), but to dump on them collectively as somehow inferior to European models is delusional. The US is one of the few countries with such anti-nationalistic buying tendencies that we consider foreign goods to be "exotic" and feel no obligations to support local industry. You are just jumping on board a local US fad to badmouth American product in an attempt to seem superior by contrast. But I digress.
        • 5 Years Ago
        (Sorry for the multi-part post, Autoblog wouldn't let it go through in one piece. There's still 1 more paragraph I'm trying to get through. Hopefully this whole thing doesn't come out as 1 giant repeat-post mess.)
        • 5 Years Ago
        It really would have been better if GM had managed to coordinate global production so that a Cobalt/Cruze could be built at any plant building an Astra and vice-versa. When the US dollar began tanking years ago, GM should have shifted production stateside instead of shuttering plants left and right. The added benefit would be that the same cars would be cheaper for other countries. Now GM is in huge trouble and it's having an effect on both its satellite brands worldwide, as well as dragging down the global economy along side the US's.
      • 5 Years Ago
      They are waiting for an Obama bailout of the GM just like the union and bondholders.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm glad to see that at least some people are not afraid of their governments and corporative overlords and still understand what democracy and free speech are...
        • 5 Years Ago
        really? i would eat my own arm if i ever saw that same comment in a thread about a UAW strike
        • 5 Years Ago
        +1
      • 5 Years Ago
      I think GM should "free" Opel/Vauxhall as soon as VW "frees" their American operations (i.e. I think this protest is asinine).
      • 5 Years Ago
      Hmmm I thought WE are "The Home of the Brave" seems like those Euros use their freedom to start some sh@t more than we do damn it !! & I luv Free Willy man .....I luv him
      • 5 Years Ago
      It would make no sense for GM to spin off Opel/Vauxhall. They would essentially be shutting themselves out of the European market as well as others. And the only ones even talking about spinning off Opel/Vauxhall are the unions in Europe. Those two brands are as "core" to GM as Chevrolet, Cadillac, and Holden, and moreso than GMC and Buick. Even if Opel/Vauxhalls become nothing more than rebadged Chevys (and many markets already rebadge Opels as Chevys), those marques will still exist.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Jimbo

        ...And the only ones even talking about spinning off Opel/Vauxhall are the unions in Europe...

        That is completely wrong, even the managing board of Opel wants to get rid of GM leadership(they currently work on a concept to get out of GM), most politicans want it, most German citizen want it.
        Most people of today see only one future for Opel... Opel independent from GM only conncet with a partnership to share technology. I am pretty sure GM will loose Opel this year if they like or not. Yesterday they claimed that GM needs much more money from Germany as they said befor, first they talked about 2billion Euro later 3billion Euro and yesterday 9billion Euro made the round... that are much more thanr $11.4billion... pretty sure for that German tax payer money Opel is cut out of GM or they recive not a single Cent from Germany...
      • 5 Years Ago
      What's that whale sign doing in there?
        • 5 Years Ago
        It's a homage to "Free Willy":
        http://www.fr-online.de/_em_daten/_hermes/2009/02/26/090226_wir_opel_free_dpa.jpg

        It would make sense for Opel to get away from GM I guess. They have way better and more reliable cars than most of the US GM brands ever will have. I kind of feel sorry for them, because they didn't screw up here in Europe like GM did in the US. The Insignia actually looks like a neat car, the Corsa does sell pretty good here in Europe and I do believe Opel can make it on it's own.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "Free Willy"
        Willy in this case is wearing the Opel blitz insignia.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Oh, okay. Thank you guys.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I wonder how many of them actually own a GM product or actively try to convince others to buy one. Back in the late 70's Mazda was in a lot of trouble in Japan and had their employees go door to door to ask their neighbors to please consider buying a Mazda for their next car. How many union workers would do that on their own time?

      It's ironic that they are protesting that no one is buying their garbage quality cars and yet they will bleed the company dry with benefits. Why weren't they protesting when GM cancelled the EV1 and instead chose to focus all their attention of giant oversized SUVs? It's that type of short term thinking that is causing the decline of the American auto industry.
        • 5 Years Ago
        You are confusing GM North America with GM Europe. I can say with certanty, since I live next to a GM plant here (guess which), that the employees to a huge extent drives their own companys cars. Because unlike the american offerings, Opel and Saab are _good cars_.
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