GM reportedly considering selling Opel

US carmaker General Motors is once again considering selling it’s troubled German unit Opel, according to the media on Thursday. Opel dismissed the reports as "speculation."

GM reportedly considering selling Opel
Photo: DPA

The website of news magazine Der Spiegel said that GM managers are concerned it’s European division, which includes Opel and Britain’s Vauxhall, is struggling while the rest of the company has rebounded well.

They also believe that GM is no longer dependent on Opel technology, and instead is able to use know-how from Korean subsidiaries, Der Spiegel reported.

Possible buyers include Volkswagen or Chinese automakers.

Speculation about Opel has been running rampant in recent months as General Motors executives have expressed scepticism about the brand, which has been owned by GM since 1929.

In March, GM CEO Dan Akerson said he was “impatient” about losses at the carmaker.

In 2009, Opel experienced serious financial problems and was nearly sold to a group of investors led by a Canadian auto parts company with Russian backers. Debate raged in Germany about whether the government should prop it up, but GM backed out of the sale at the last minute.

If GM does sell Opel, it will likely concentrate on building market share with its more successful Chevrolet Brand as well as its Korean subsidiary, Auto Bild magazine reported.

Opel has officially dismissed the possibility of a sale.

“This is pure speculation, we will not comment on it,” an Opel spokesman told news agency AFP.

But the news has rattled employees and union representatives. Opel boss Karl-Friedrich Stracke complained of “rumours” and “speculation” in a letter to employees, while appealing them to remain confident in the carmaker’s future.

“I will not let myself be influenced by the speculation in the press,” he wrote. “Please don’t let yourself be either.”

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the German state of Thuringia, where Opel has a plant, told news agency Reuters that all the talk was “nonsense” and that it did not believe GM would sell it’s German unit.

The Local/AFP/DPA/mdm

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From lizards to water, eco-bumps snag Tesla’s giant Berlin car factory

In the green forest outside Berlin, a David and Goliath-style battle is playing out between electric carmaker Tesla and environmental campaigners who want to stop its planned "gigafactory".

From lizards to water, eco-bumps snag Tesla's giant Berlin car factory
Tesla's gigafactory outside the doors of Berlin. dpa-Zentralbild | Patrick Pleul

“When I saw on TV that the Tesla factory was going to be built here, I couldn’t believe it,” said Steffen Schorch, driving his trusty German-made car.

The 60-year-old from Erkner village in the Berlin commuter belt has become one of the faces of the fight against the US auto giant’s first European factory, due to open in the Brandenburg region near Berlin in July.

“Tesla needs far too much water, and the region does not have this water,” said the environmental activist, a local representative of the Nabu ecologist campaign group.

Announced in November 2019, Tesla’s gigafactory project was warmly welcomed as an endorsement of the “Made in Germany” quality mark – but was immediately met with opposition from local residents.

Demonstrations, legal action, open letters – residents have done everything in their power to delay the project, supported by powerful
environmental campaign groups Nabu and Gruene Liga.

Tesla was forced to temporarily suspend forest clearing last year after campaigners won an injunction over threats to the habitats of resident lizards and snakes during their winter slumber.

READ MORE: Is Germany’s Volkswagen becoming ‘the new Tesla’ as it ramps up e-vehicle production?

And now they have focused their attention on water consumption – which could reach up to 3.6 million cubic metres a year, or around 30 percent of the region’s available supply, according to the ZDF public broadcaster.

The extra demand could place a huge burden on a region already affected by water shortages and hit by summer droughts for the past three years.

Local residents and environmentalists are also concerned about the impact on the wetlands, an important source of biodiversity in the region.

Tesla Street

“The water situation is bad, and will get worse,” Heiko Baschin, a spokesman for the neighbourhood association IG Freienbrink, told AFP.

Brandenburg’s environment minister Axel Vogel sought to play down the issue, saying in March that “capacity has not been exceeded for now”.

But the authorities admit that “the impact of droughts is significant” and have set up a working group to examine the issue in the long term.

The gigafactory is set to sprawl over 300 hectares – equivalent to approximately 560 football fields – southwest of the German capital.

Tesla is aiming to produce 500,000 electric vehicles a year at the plant, which will also be home to “the largest battery factory in the world”,
according to group boss Elon Musk.

In a little over a year and a half, swathes of coniferous forest have already been cleared to make way for vast concrete rectangles on a red earth base, accessed via the already iconic Tesla Strasse (Tesla Street).

German bureaucracy

The new site still has only provisional construction permits, but Tesla has been authorised by local officials to begin work at its own risk.

Final approval depends on an assessment of the project’s environmental impact – including the issue of water.

In theory, if approval is not granted, Tesla will have to dismantle the entire complex at its own expense.

But “pressure is being exerted (on the regulatory authorities), linked to Tesla’s significant investment”, Gruene Liga’s Michael Greschow told AFP.

In early April, Tesla said it was “irritated” by the slow pace of German bureaucracy, calling for exceptions to the rules for projects that help the environment.

Economy Minister Peter Altmaier agreed in April that his government “had not done enough” to reduce bureaucracy, lauding the gigafactory as a “very important project”.

Despite Germany’s reputation for efficiency, major infrastructure projects are often held up by bureaucracy criticised as excessive by the business community.

Among the most embarrassing examples are Berlin’s new airport which opened last October after an eight-year delay and Stuttgart’s new train station, which has been under construction since 2010.

Brandenburg’s economy minister, Joerg Steinbach, raised the possibility in February that the Tesla factory could be delayed beyond its July planned opening for the same reason.

SEE ALSO: Tesla advertises over 300 jobs for new Gigafactory near Berlin