Europe's automakers in turmoil at Geneva auto show
Detroit Free Press
Mark Phelan - Feb. 25, 2017
The European auto industry is in turmoil as it prepares for the Geneva auto show in March.
Automakers would rather be talking about sleek new vehicles and exciting technologies, but corporate drama will loom large.
Hereís an overview to help you recognize some of the players and their potential roles:
General Motors sells Opel/Vauxhall to Peugeot SA
This appears to be a done deal, and it will rock the European industry. After nearly a century GM will effectively stop doing business in Europe, and Franceís Peugeot SA, which includes the CitroŽn brand, will become the continentís second-biggest automaker.
PSA is a stronger and more advanced company than most Americans realize, but taking on Opel is a huge challenge. Many European observers think PSAís business, product line and manufacturing footprint overlap too much with Opel.
Concerns about possible job cuts in Germany and Britain have made the deal politically explosive, prompting Peugeot Group chief Carlos Tavares to meet top politicians and union leaders to reassure them that jobs will be protected, at least initially.
Meanwhile, GM which fought tooth and nail to retain Opelís engineering and design expertise during the Great Recession, is ready to move on. Managementís new credo of ďfish where theyíre bitingĒ translates to abandoning Europe
ís high-cost, low-margin environment for more profitable locales, like North America and China. Itís risky, but GM no longer needs Opelís engineering and design, so the die is cast.
Peugeot on the prowl around the world
Speaking of brands most Americans have never heard of, Peugeot is also reportedly shopping for Proton, a struggling Malaysian automaker. Reports say PSA thinks it can boost Proton production from 150,000 a year to as much as two million. Other automakers have tried to turn Proton into a success before, but Malaysia remains inexplicably attractive to automakers. Chinaís Geely, which owns Volvo, is also interested in Proton.
Proton also happens to own Lotus, the British sports car and consulting company thatís synonymous with engineering excellence and an inability to make money.
Any big move by Peugeot SA may start dominoes falling as other European automakers react.
Fiat Chrysler, anyone?...
Where art thou, Wolfgang?...
High-profile executive Wolfgang Bernhardís surprising departure from Daimler this month set tongues wagging...
...If Bernhard wants another job in the auto industry, he should get offers from European, Chinese and possibly even Japanese, Korean or American automakers.
Volkswagen diesel(gate), management feuds...
Did I mention there will be cars?
Automakers hope to squeeze in a few new-vehicle unveilings in between management rumors and boardroom tussles during the Geneva auto showís media days March 7-8.
The goodies coming include a $1.6-million supercar by Audiís in-house ItalDesign studio, VWís Arteon fastback sedan, Opel Grand Insignia station wagon, Mercedes-Benz E-class convertible and a crazed soft-top Mercedes-Maybach SUV thatís like a six-figure Jeep Wrangler.
Iíll preview those and other cars coming at the show Sunday, March 5.