Is Vauxhall’s future any safer under GM?

Published: 05 November 2009

GM’s opportunistic decision to hang on to its European assets sticks in the craw. You can understand that the American bosses would wish to stop Magna getting its hands on Vauxhall and Opel and then immediately benefiting from a €3bn handout from the German government. And once the EU had intervened to establish the principle that such a sweetener should be available not just to Magna but to any suitor, then GM’s move was sealed.

But GM’s hopeless mismanagement over many, many years is the reason why Vauxhall jobs were in danger in the first place. And only billions of dollars of US public money, given on the promise of radical restructuring – tacitly to include the withdrawal from European operations – saved GM from simply imploding. So on what basis does the company now claim the right to renege on its agreement with Magna?

The reason given is that the company has had a relatively decent couple of months. They may have heard of scrappage incentives? Even if not, surely they are not so misguided to assume that, after decades of shambolic underachievement and frantic loss-making a couple of months of non-disaster merits a total about-turn?

In my opinion they have no moral right to keep Vauxhall, and it’s heartbreaking to see Ellesmere Port employees leaving their shifts this week telling reporters that they are ‘relieved’ at the news. Relieved? Magna had guaranteed Ellesmere Port jobs for at least another four years; GM has done no such thing.

Far from being some kind of salvation for Vauxhall’s 5000+ workers, GM’s inept shall-we-shan’t-we dance has cast a new, even more worrying shadow. The future has never looked more shaky.

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By Greg Fountain

CAR's former managing editor, editor, caption chiseller, noticer of ironies