It’s a merger that by all accounts caught Opel’s top executives entirely by surprise. Earlier this week it was revealed that General Motors is in advanced talks to sell its long-time European subsidiary to France’s Peugeot.
German politicians were quick to criticize the deal and call for jobs in Europe’s largest economy to be protected. Now, in a surprise move, Opel’s Chief Executive Karl-Thomas Neumann has apparently said he’s behind the idea.
“This opens a chance to create a European champion and launch a new successful chapter in our history after 88 years belonging to GM,” Mr. Neumann said in excerpts of an interview to be published Sunday by the German tabloid Bild am Sonntag.
Even Mr. Neumann was caught unawares when media reports of the talks first surfaced. He was only briefed on Wednesday by GM CEO Marry Barra. Mr. Neumann said those talks were “constructive” and included discussions about how to safeguard Opel’s interests.
That seems to have been a turning point. Mr. Neumann told Bild that “all parties understand the industrial logic behind the transaction being considered.” He also promised that unions will be “closely involved” in the merger talks, a key demand of the German government.
Mr. Neumann said he could not say when – or if – the merger deal would actually be completed. If it does go through, the merger between Opel and France’s PSA, the parent company of Peugeot, would create Europe’s second-largest carmaker by sales.
That seems to have piqued Mr. Neumann’s interest.
Christopher Cermak is an editor with Handelsblatt Global in Berlin. To contact the author: firstname.lastname@example.org