GM Wants to Control Key Areas of Opel After Sale

Company wants control over product and engine development

GM chief executive Fritz Henderson said he wants to keep control of key development strategies at German auto maker and GM subsidiary Opel once it is sold to Canadian group Magna International.

"We want to maintain substantial control over the product and engine development, that is, on intellectual property and global purchases," Henderson said in an interview appearing on Sept. 23 in the German magazine Auto Motor and Sport. The company wants to have four of the eight seats on Opel's management board and to open an office, staffed by "at least eight to 10 people," at Opel headquarters in Germany.

He agreed that officially Opel would have "complete freedom in its development."

"Even if Opel were planning to develop a space vehicle, we would not intervene," he said, adding: "But we would not pay the development costs for that."

GM is currently negotiating with Magna and its Russian partner, the state-owned bank Sberbank, on a final deal covering the sale of a majority stake in Opel. Under the arrangement GM would keep 35% of Opel.

Talks are currently centered on planned job cuts once the sale is completed, estimated at around 11,000 from a total workforce of 49,500. A demonstration was planned on Sept. 23 at an Opel plant in Antwerp, Belgium that is threatened with closure.

"The new Opel will have to close at least one plant," Henderson said, adding: "Antwerp is an option but nothing has been definitively decided."

He also dismissed criticism in Germany that GM had drained the finances of its German subsidiary. "Even today, Opel could not exist without GM ... The notion that an evil American group has caused harm to the poor German unit is completely wrong," he said.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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