GM plans to let part of Opel go

General Motors gm on Monday will present a plan to loosen its ties with its European Opel unit in an attempt to persuade the German government to lend it $4.2 billion.

The move should not hurt the U.S. automaker's much-discussed plans to share vehicle platforms with Opel small cars, says one analyst.

Officials from General Motors Europe proposed Friday that Opel be partially spun off from its U.S. parent. The German government had demanded a restructuring plan for the future before considering aid to help preserve the roughly 25,000 jobs at Opel's various German facilities. Another stipulation: No German aid should flow to GM in Detroit.

GM has been attempting to globalize its product base by using Opel platforms. Last year, it began importing Opel Astra sedans badged as Saturn Astra. And a Buick sedan based on an Opel platform could be built in GM's Russelsheim, Germany, plant.

"This doesn't change any of that," says Jim Hall, an auto analyst at 2953 Analytics. "If GM is willing to give away up to 50% of Opel, whatever partner that is going to come in will want to continue a relationship with GM."

Managers envision Opel and its British sister unit Vauxhall becoming a "legally demarcated, at least partly independent business unit," GM Europe President Carl-Peter Forster said after a meeting of Opel's supervisory board. Forster heads the board, the equivalent of a U.S. board of directors.

He said the government is aware of today's proposal. Berlin officials had no comment, but the governor of the German state of Hesse, home to an Opel factory, praised the effort. "It is good that we have a concrete plan," Roland Koch said.

Opel Chief Executive Hans Demant said in televised remarks that the plan contains "the goal of creating an independent European Opel organization that is open for investment from third parties" and a "walling-off concept."

Forster emphasized that it is important for the unit to remain part of the GM network and retain access to technology, but explained that instead of Opel being wholly owned by GM, the goal would be to have third parties hold more than 25%. He said specifics had not been determined.

"That is typically a discussion that will have to be held with interested parties," Forster said.

He said the company will try to avoid plant closures or layoffs as it reduces production capacity.

Opel will need $4.2 billion in financing or guarantees from European authorities in the next two years, Forster said. The aim would be to pay the money back in 2014 or 2015.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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