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One More Round: GM Hits back at Rival VW

July 30, 1993

BERLIN (AP) _ Prosecutors have opened another investigation into the activities of a former General Motors executive the carmaker accuses of industrial espionage.

Jose Ignacio Lopez left GM for Volkswagen in March. The wounded Detroit automaker claimed the Spanish cost-cutting whiz stole company secrets, and a German prosecutor has been pursuing possible criminal charges.

The Hamburg prosecutor’s office said Thursday it was acting on a GM request to investigate apparent discrepancies between affidavits filed by Lopez, VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech and several GM and Opel employees.

Meanwhile Thursday, the war of words between GM and Volkswagen heated up.

Speaking through its German subsidiary, Adam Opel AG, the U.S. auto giant GM expressed ″astonishment″ that VW was standing by Lopez.

At a news conference Thursday, Opel board member Hans Wilhelm Gaeb also dismissed Volkswagen’s accusations that GM was waging an ″international economic war aimed at ruining VW.″

Gaeb, also a vice president of General Motors Europe, added: ″Adam Opel AG is not conducting any war but rather competition based on the country’s legal system.″

Last week, prosecutors in Darmstadt who are investigating GM’s claim that Lopez took confidential documents to VW said they found GM papers in the home of Jorge Alvarez Aguirre, who moved to VW with Lopez.

Lopez honed his skills at Opel and was General Motors’ purchasing chief when he left for VW. He had drastically reduced prices paid to suppliers at GM and was hired by VW to do the same. He has achieved 90 percent of a targeted 8.7 billion-mark ($5.2 billion) savings for this year, VW chairman Piech said this week.

Lopez’ slashing attacks on costs are what many economists say will save German industry, which has the most expensive production costs in the world.

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