German states criticise Stellantis’ approach to Opel

15 October 2021

A joint letter penned by the heads of three German states has criticised Stellantis’ approach to its Opel brand. Addressing the company’s CEO Carlos Tavares, the leaders of Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate and Thuringia said public trust in the company was being eroded by its lack of communication.

Issues have stemmed from the considered spin-off of Opel’s plants in Rüsselsheim and Eisenach, as well as a three-month pause in production at the latter due to a shortage of semiconductors. ‘Both issues led to doubts and concern in the German public,’ the letter from minister-presidents Volker Bouffier, Malu Dreyer and Bodo Ramelow reads.

Spin-offs and semiconductors

Stellantis, the result of a merger between PSA Group and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), currently oversees 14 brands. This means many different production facilities across the world, each with its own unique benefits and challenges. Previously, Tavares had identified the need to streamline these subsidiaries and tackle theproblem of overcapacity.

It was recently revealed that Stellantis was considering splitting off two of these plants, both belonging to Opel and located in Germany. Under the potential move, the Rüsselsheim and Eisenach plants would be cut from the brand but remain linked to Stellantis. The automotive giant explained that this could help boost flexibility and efficiency.

The Eisenach factory also hit the headlines recently after it was confirmed that production would be paused for at least three months because of the ongoing supply shortage of semiconductors. This is an essential component for new vehicles, which are becoming increasingly electrified and digitised.

Problems with plants

However, the potential spin-off and production pause have not been well received as the letter from the German heads of state demonstrates. ‘We are turning to you with this letter out of concern before the trust is lost through further unexpected news from Stellantis’ side,’ the three ministers wrote.

A chief issue the representatives identified was a lack of communication between the company’s CEO and themselves. ‘You yourself, Mr Tavares, at the former PSA Group had ensured open and honest communication with representatives of states with Opel locations about your plans for Opel Germany,’ the letter read.

PSA Group bought Opel and its UK arm, Vauxhall, from General Motors in 2017. The brand was part of the merger between the French carmaker and Fiat Chrysler in 2021, the move that formed Stellantis.

Bouffier, Dreyer and Ramelow are now following developments around the plants with concern, and are in contact with one another to coordinate their actions. These Opel plants are of vital importance to their local regions given that they are major sources of prosperity, innovation and employment.

‘Opel not only stands for innovative cars, but also for numerous jobs and the prosperity of the regions affected. This also gives rise to a social responsibility, which Stellantis has also acknowledged in the past,’ the letter explained. ‘The employees, but also the affected regions as a whole, need reliable future prospects. We expect from Stellantis that decisions relevant to the future of the locations are communicated openly and transparently.’

Autovista24 reached out to Stellantis for comment on the letter. However, no response was received prior to the publication of this article.