Opel Post: Mr Lohscheller, further negotiations with the IG Metall are scheduled for this week. Where do we stand?
Michael Lohscheller: The negotiations with our social partners in Germany are entering a decisive phase. The outcome of these talks will shape the future of our company in our home country, after what has been already put in place abroad. The aim is clear: Together we want to put Opel in Germany on the same dynamic path as in the other countries across Europe. Our duty is to put Opel on the safe side given the fierce competition in the automotive industry. The future is in our hands.
What does the future hold for our German sites?
As we have repeatedly emphasised, we want to invest in Germany. The prerequisite for strong investments in Eisenach, Kaiserslautern and Rüsselsheim is competitiveness. Together with our social partners, we need to create this condition because any investment has to be based on a strong performance plan to build a sustainable future.
“Together we want to put Opel in Germany on the same dynamic path as in the other countries across Europe.”
Will the workers in the plants have to pay the price for the mistakes made in the past?
No, because all parties have a common goal: secure the future of our company. After making losses for almost 20 years in a row, the status quo is clearly no longer an option. We cannot afford for another plan to fail. We have to execute PACE! with all discipline because this plan paves the way to beat competitors and gives Opel the chance to regain the place we deserve among carmakers. To improve our situation significantly, we need to improve labour cost, global efficiency and to increase performance. As soon as we reach the turnaround, it will be the employees who will profit from a strong company.
Talking about labour cost – how do the saving plans and the forthcoming wage increase for the automotive industry agree with one another?
This is difficult! And this is one of the reasons why we have asked the IG Metall to suspend the collective wage increase for the duration of the negotiations. We are simply not in the same financial situation as the other German car manufacturers, and at the same time we face the same challenging environment. We need to reach an agreement with IG Metall and the works council to restore the competitiveness of Opel versus its competitors.
Where do we stand compared to our competitors?
We need to be honest and admit that all of our competitors are already profitable and are continuously improving their performance. We are not at the level that would secure a sustainable future. This is the key challenge we need to address by appropriate measures. A look at the numbers clearly shows this. While other German carmakers are posting record results, we continued to write losses last year. In the period from August 1 to the end of the year alone, we showed a minus of €179 million – mathematically this results in a margin of minus 2.5 percent. The extent to which we are currently behind of the competition is shown by the results of other German car manufacturers, which generate automotive recurring operating margins of between 7 and almost 10 percent. There is no reason why Opel cannot recover! But we have to do it now in the framework of our PACE! plan.
How high are the chances of an agreement between the bargaining parties being reached?
I am very confident that together with our social partners we will find the way to a sustainable future for Opel in Germany and for the entire company – without forced redundancies and plant closures.
What makes you so optimistic?
We have already achieved some very important successes. For example, 15 Centers of Competence from various technology sectors and responsibility for the entire company have been allocated to our Engineering Center in Rüsselsheim. Furthermore, the engineering teams in Rüsselsheim will take over global responsibility for the development of LCV platforms and modules of Groupe PSA – from advance development to series production. We can be proud of these successes.
Furthermore, we have started to expand our business beyond Europe and we are currently making a lot of progress in our electrification strategy.
But we have to make our company weatherproof against any upcoming storm. We can do it, because we have a new mind-set at Opel and we have a strong strategic plan.
What personal motivation will you take into these difficult negotiations?
I am committed to Opel’s future, my management team and I will put all our energy into these negotiations to make Opel successful and profitable again.
“We have already achieved some very important successes. 15 Centers of Competence have been allocated to our Engineering Center in Rüsselsheim.”