SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. Schild, General Motors has decided not to sell Opel after all, preferring to restructure the German automaker itself. What do Opel employees think of the plan?
Armin Schild: GM is going to continue pursuing company policies that have already led to the firm's decline over the last 20 years. Pressure on the employees and on the government, however, will become more intense.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: What do you think GM will demand?
Schild: GM will ask for the same amount of support that the government already promised to Magna. In return, they will come up with a restructuring plan which, at first glance, looks a lot like the one Magna proposed. But closer study reveals that it does not actually contain what you would expect. The existence of the Opel brand has been put in danger. At the very least, it has been intentionally damaged.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: What are the differences between the two plans?
Schild: GM speaks of 10,000 jobs that are to be eliminated. Magna spoke of a similar number. But the Magna plan avoided factory closures and layoffs -- job elimination can also be achieved by way of not replacing workers who retire or leave of their own volition. The GM bosses want to close a number of facilities and turn masses of workers onto the streets. There is a major difference between the abstract elimination of 10,000 jobs and concrete measures to fire 10,000 workers.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Experts say there are advantages to closing entire factories as opposed to thinning out the entire workforce.
Schild: Magna's strategy foresaw spreading the job losses among all Opel facilities. But that is not the same thing as thinning out the entire workforce. The point was to be able to utilize the existing production capacities. The point was to pursue a new strategy aimed at increasing market share through the introduction of new models, the creation of niche products and entering new markets.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: But GM is also interested in selling cars.
Schild: The last 20 years have shown that GM managers pay more attention to profits than to the number of vehicles sold -- and as such have paid less attention to developing innovative, more competitive products. Everyone could see the results of this strategy at Opel. They never fully took advantage of the know-how of their engineers nor did they use the brand's technological potential. Instead, the focus on saving money ruined the brand -- new models were only introduced once managers were certain that they would produce the maximum amount of profit. But that never really worked and it won't work in the future. Since the bankruptcy, not a single new GM model has been introduced.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: In other words, you think the fault lies with the management of GM?
Schild: The problem has to do with the structures and the fundamental course charted by the bankrupt giant GM. The flow of information from one level of the hierarchy to the next reminds one of socialism, in which successes were claimed even as failure was evident to all.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Do you think that GM will invest in Opel?
Schild: Take a look at the amount that GM wants to lay on the table. It is around $3 billion, much less than what Magna intended to invest. There are, of course, things that one can do with that much money. But creating a forward-looking strategy, which includes entering new markets, won't be possible -- and it also isn't the intention.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: What does that mean for the Opel brand?
Schild: The Opel brand won't have much of a chance to survive in the coming years, given the intense competition in the automobile industry. The entire sector is facing a global overcapacity of 30 percent. Those who don't energetically defend and solidify their position will lose the race. Opel could very well be fighting its final battle. And it is one that can't be won with the kind of minimal approach currently being planned by GM.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: You seem to give the GM managers no credit at all. Working together with them is sure to be difficult.
Schild: Of course the situation is an emotional one at the moment. Especially when one sees from up close how workers are being strung along and cheated out of their futures. Still, I think it is wrong to pass sweeping judgement against the GM management. Some at GM were surely aware that a cooperation with Magna represented an excellent opportunity. But it's not for nothing that the entire workforce and the governments of a number of European countries are angry with GM.