This has been a fascinating week not so much for me (the Mayor has always maintained to me that she would consider a fourth term, and Sir Robert Jones’s quip about being the corporate backer behind a mayoral candidate and council was on the cards for weeks), but for the automotive industry.
GM’s board of directors has voted to retain Opel, which is a wise move for several reasons. First, CEO Fritz Henderson is absolutely right when he cited the strategic importance of the unit. Its platforms underpin many models, including the Buick Regal, based on the Opel Insignia. GM would have been weakened in the CD segment, given how poorly its non-Opel models are engineered there. GM US, GM do Brasil, Holden and Daewoo could only pick up so much slack.
Secondly, it gives the brand some assurance, if only for the rose-coloured glasses’ factor: that people are more comfortable with the status quo. Magna may have had some automotive experience, but could it have been the parent company to a car brand; and how soon did Sberbank reckon on seeing a return? After Chrysler’s time under Cerberus, where the company was basically stripped of resources, I question the wisdom of the ﬁnancial sector and its forward planning.
Jobs would have been cut to the level of 11,000, and I am not saying that job losses would not happen on GM’s watch, either. However, I think the numbers may be more conservative; and that the Opel Astra, having picked up the Goldene Lenkrad (Golden Steering Wheel) award last night, could help volumes at the plants.
To say that Opel would lose access to the Russian market is foolhardy, as GM already has long-standing ventures in the country and expansion can continue, regardless of owner.
Meanwhile, Chrysler had plenty of people Tweeting as its product plans to 2014 were announced today. In a word, it’s all achievable: some platform sharing for small- to mid-sized cars, retooling of the top models, rebrands across the board for Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and, the surprise one, Ram—Dodge will spin off its truck division into its own brand. There seems to be a real concerted effort to involve suppliers, there was some healthy transparency, and there was a sense of identity at each one of the brands presenting.
Anyone would be worried about Chrysler after the missteps made ever since Daimler-Benz AG came courting. It wound up a weakened ﬁrm, and things only got worse under Cerberus. Now, with Fiat and Sergio Marchionne, the management style of internal competition and functional integration seems to be working. His dual Italian–Canadian nationalities, and the understanding that that must entail, seems to have been put to good use.
I think this gives suppliers a real sense of security, as well as the thousands who work for Chrysler. Dealers and customers also beneﬁt similarly.
And the rebrands are well timed and expected.
Plans announced, the hurdles that Chrysler confronted with US suppliers should be smoothed over more.
There was less in the presentations I watched about the Chinese and Russian markets, but Chrysler is present in both, and at least has the potential to grow its presence there.
It won’t become a major player, but at least it looks like it will survive. Posted by Jack Yan, 07:45
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