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GM’s Akerson reaffirms commitment to Opel

April 10, 2013

RUESSELSHEIM, Germany (AP) — General Motors’ top executives have reaffirmed their commitment to Opel, the U.S. auto group’s lossmaking European subsidiary, promising to invest another 4 billion euros ($5.2 billion) in the company.

GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson said at a news conference held at the company’s German headquarters Wednesday that GM was “fully supportive of the Opel turnaround plan” and that the Detroit-based group “must have a strong presence in Europe and especially here in Germany.”

Akerson added that GM had approved the investment of 4 billion euros in Europe by 2016 but did not announce any new plant closures or other specific measures to improve earnings.

The chief executive and the GM board of directors had travelled to Germany to discuss the company’s plan to reverse years of losses. GM had tried to sell Opel in 2009 as the U.S. car giant headed into bankruptcy restructuring — but it later decided to keep it.

Joining Akerson at the news conference were Adam Opel AG board chairman Steve Girsky, the governor of the local region of Hesse, Volker Bouffier, and top employee representative Wolfgang Schaefer-Klug.

Hundreds of employees packed walkways overlooking the atrium at the Opel headquarters to hear Akerson and Girsky, who stood next to a bright yellow version of the company’s new Adam compact.

Afterwards, the executives unveiled a concrete chunk from the Berlin Wall in front of the headquarters building, as a sign that “we overcome any walls in our heads and those between different cultures, and that we are now starting a new chapter in the history of Opel,” Opel CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann said.

The company is plagued by fierce competition and weak pricing power in a crowded market for less expensive cars in Europe. The debt crisis in countries that use the euro currency has seen auto sales plummet across Europe.

Opel plans to introduce 23 new models and 13 new engines through 2016 and develop a small car platform with French partner PSA Peugeot Citroen. The company is set to close its plant in Bochum by the end of 2014 after employees rejected a restructuring agreement.

Girsky told reporters that “Opel is on the way to the biggest turnaround in the history of the European auto industry.”

He said the executives and board were there “to demonstrate our commitment” to Opel, Europe and the company’s Ruesselsheim headquarters and design center in southwestern Germany.

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