“It is a lot more than we expected,” said Katharina Klenke, who organised the protest through a specially created website. According to Klenke, 100 applications became over 1,000 participants, who had come from all over Germany. Rüsselsheim is home to the headquarters of the 147-year-old company and one of the four Opel plants in Germany currently under threat.
The Opel-lovers, who came in vintage and modern Opel brands, met early in the morning at various pre-arranged points in the region, before building a convoy that eventually gathered on the car park in front of Opel headquarters, the Adam-Opel-Haus. T-shirts with a “We Are Opel” slogan printed on them appeared in their hundreds.
Rüsselsheim’s mayor Stefan Gieltowski did not take part in the protest, to the regret of Klenke: “What is more important than the jobs of those in the town?”
The German government is attempting to save the carmaker – a subsidiary of US giant General Motors (GM) – but has resisted calls to offer billions in state aid. Opel employs some 26,000 people in Germany.
Berlin is wrestling with GM’s request for €3.3 billion in government funds from Germany and other European countries where it has factories. Opel has presented a “restructuring plan” which received a cool reception from the German authorities, and is currently the subject of fierce debate between the coalition parties.