Opel’s union has postponed vote for the new CEO

Article by Christian A., on April 6, 2011

The union vote on whether chief executive-designate Karl-Friedrich Stracke should head Opel has been postponed to April 11, 2011, according to the report from Automobilwoche. Stracke was supposed to have started on the post by April 1. However, the labor union of Opel, the European subsidiary of General Motors Co., has expressed concerns over future power structure.

Employees are seeking GM’s assurances that the subsidiary will be autonomous from its mother company. Last January, Opel changed from being a private firm to a stock corporation.

Klaus Franz, the top labor leader of Opel as well as the vice chairman of the company’s supervisory board, told Automobilwoche, the sister publication of Automotive News Europe, that Stracke was the right person for the position of CEO but opposes to the change since Stracke’s power would be limited.

He also said that he is open to a counter proposal for the CEO position. He expressed fears that Opel’s mother company will produce a new financial holding above the subsidiary and will provide more authority to GM Europe President Nick Reilly.

Reilly reported directly to the CEO of GM, Dan Akerson. Stracke, who has led the global vehicle engineering for GM for the past year and a half, will report to Reilly.

Franz and Opel’s management are seemingly at odds with regard to where the General Motors subsidiary will manufacture three key models. Franz wants the Poland, Spain and Germany facilities to be selected versus the South Korea plant of GM to build the next-generation Antara and Agila, as well as a new compact crossover positioned below the Antara.

The union desires to have the Agila replacement in Gliwice, Poland. Franz has said that union will fight to have the subcompact produced in Gliwice beginning late 2014. Since Zafira minivan is the only vehicle produced at the Opel's site in Bochum, Germany, the unions want to secure the facility's long-term future by adding the next generation of Opel Antara medium SUV and the Chevrolet Captiva. These SUVs are currently built in South Korea.

Established in January 1862, in Russelsheim, Germany by Adam Opel, the European carmaker became a fully owned unit of General Motors in 1931. Opel was the first German auto company to produce more 100,000 vehicles a year in 1935.

In the 1990s, Opel was regarded as the cash cow of GM, with profit margins similar to that of Toyota. Its profit even helped the American carmaker offset its losses in North America and finance its expansion into Asia. Opel’s last full-year profit was logged in 1999.

In 2010, Opel announced the closure of its plant in Antwerp, Belgium by the end of the year as well as plans to invest around EUR11 billion in the next five years.

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