The perils of obsolescence: The case of Opel

Publication Type:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, Krakow (2012)


company governance, General Motors, markets, Opel, product policy, productive organization, trajectory


General Motors (GM), the world’s largest automaker in 2011, has been tremendously affected by the 2008-2009 automotive industry crisis: Facing the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in June 2009, the GM management and US government officials since then paved the way for a massive company restructuring process. Although being stock market relisted since November 2010 with the largest IPO in US history and reporting an EBIT-adjusted income of $8.3 billion for 2011 calendar-year, the GM recovery process still remains open-ended.
Purpose and approach: The above outlined reorganization is heavily affecting GM’s European branch of automobile production (former GME, defunct since 2010). It’s most important European subsidiary, Adam Opel AG, still remains in the focus of actual trouble-shooting interventions: The question to be addressed here is the analysis of Opel’s trajectory being affected by GM’s restructuring.
Therefore, first contribution of the presentation will be a comparison of the economic situation of GME in general and Opel in particular in the wake of the 2008-2009 crisis. This will shed a light on the core problems actually still troubling Opel, while competitors (like Volkswagen and Renault-Nissan) soon reported recovery of production and sales figures following the late-2000s automobile crisis (chapter II). 
Secondly, I will contribute by analyzing structural problems affecting the future Opel restructuring and the companies’ continuing search for a sustainable strategy and market appearance. Hence, the following analytical dimensions  will be of special interest (chapter III):
1) Focus on markets with regard to the long criticized restricted market appearance and limited export possibilities for Opel which have already obstructed participation on lucrative export markets and with special regard to Opel’s actual core markets;
2) Regarding the productive organization, with special regard to Opel’s production sites within the GM Global Manufacturing System (GMS) and plant utilization;
3) Finally, looking at company governance processes, the announced 2015 Astra production relocation will be used as describing Opel’s actual problems concerning company governance processes in a nutshell; 

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