Fiat doubts about future of GM’s German operations

May 9th, 2009 - 2:16 am ICT by IANS  

Mainz (Germany), May 9 (DPA) Italian carmaker Fiat appeared to raise fresh doubts Friday about its plans for parts of the German operations of crisis-hit US carmaker General Motors if the group’s bid to buy GM’s European auto offshoots succeeds.
Following a meeting between Fiat chief Sergio Marchionne and key German political leaders, the premier of the west German state of Rhineland Platz Kurt Beck said he was “greatly concerned” about the operations of GM’s German subsidiary, Opel.

Turin-based Fiat wants to build what would be the world’s second biggest auto group by taking out holdings in both the troubled US automotive group Chrysler and GM’s German and European operations, which also includes Britain’s Vauxhall.

But Beck said he now had “more doubts than before” about the prospects for the Opel operations in the city of Kaiserlauten, where 1,100 workers are employed in a motor production unit.

Beck said he had sent a report of his meeting with Marchionne to German Economics Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg and the leaders of other German states where Opel has operations.

For his part, Marchionne said there was “still much to negotiate” about the Opel site in Kaiserlauten, adding that everything was still open.

Under Fiat’s plans for Opel, motor production is to be concentrated at one site.

Following talks with Marchionne, the premier of the German state of Hesse, Roland Koch, where Opel is based, said he had called on Fiat to provide concrete plans for Opel’s future.

This is the second time in a week that Marchionne has visited Germany having held talks with Guttenberg on Fiat’s plans for Opel Monday.

In the meantime, however, Opel unions in Kaiserlauten also signalled Friday resistance to Fiat proposals with the chief of the workers’ council Alfred Klingel saying that they would not go along with the Italian carmaker’s plans.

But the battle for GM’s European operations is far from over with the Austrian-Canadian auto-parts supplier Magna International Inc also launching a bid for Opel and media reports saying that Russian automaker OAO GAZ Group is also weighing up a move on the GM German unit.

US President Barak Obama has given GM until the end of the month to present a restructuring plan or face insolvency.

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