Germany: Opel sale to French automaker opportunity for both

Carlos Tavares, CEO of PSA Peugeot Citroen, right, and German Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Brigitte Zypries, left, smile as they arrive for a meeting in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, April 5, 2017. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
Carlos Tavares, CEO of PSA Peugeot Citroen, left, and German Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Brigitte Zypries, right, talk prior to a meeting in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, April 5, 2017. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

BERLIN — Germany's economy minister and other officials met Wednesday with the head of automaker PSA Group and union representatives to go over details of the French company's acquisition of General Motors' European brand Adam Opel AG, with both sides saying the talks had been "constructive."

GM sold its Opel and Vauxhall brands to PSA in March for roughly $2.33 billion, making the French company, which also makes Peugeot and Citroen cars, Europe's No. 2 automaker after Volkswagen.

Opel employs 19,000 people in Germany out of a total workforce of 38,000, and the sale has raised concerns about job losses, especially in an election year. Vauxhall, the British brand, employs 4,500 people at two plants.

Executives have insisted that no layoffs are currently foreseen, though analysists have said they're inevitable over the long term.

PSA Group CEO Carlos Tavares has said there are ways to contain factory costs other than cutting workers, and that the company would focus on logistics, quality, energy, maintenance and security.

In a joint statement issued after the meeting, Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries said Tavares had reaffirmed PSA's commitment to respect existing labor agreements and that meeting participants agreed that the sale "can offer significant advantages to both" PSA and Opel/Vauxhall.

Zypries said Germany would continue to provide "constructive support" to the merging of PSA and Opel/Vauxhall at both a federal and state level.

"I am glad that we have made further progress, not least in the interest of the employees of Opel/Vauxhall," she said. "I particularly welcome the commitment by Mr. Tavares to respect and continue all the collective agreements."

Other topics of the meeting included the continuation of Opel/Vauxhall as a single company with independent brands within the PSA group, and the agreement to work together with unions to "ensure the long-term viability of the Opel/Vauxhall brands, production sites, and the development center in Europe."

All sides agreed to meet again to continue the talks at an unspecified future date.

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