The social climate shows signs of easing in Stellantis in Germany. On Wednesday November 17, the automaker and the IG Metall union announced that Opel’s German plants will be kept under one entity. The group also indicated that production of the Opel Grandland would return to Eisenach in January 2022. This will allay fears about the brand’s industrial future across the Rhine.
Opel’s SUV will be produced exclusively at its German plant from the first week of January 2022, said the manufacturer born from the merger between PSA and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Its production was transferred to France, to Sochaux (Doubs), after the closure of the German site in Eisenach in September due to a shortage of chips. The closure of the website, which was described as temporary, made the trade unions fear the abandonment of meeting activities on the website.
The announcement confirms information from Reuters according to which Eisenach was to resume production of the Grandland in early 2022. The equipment maker had assured Reuters that it had received Eisenach’s order volume with a view to restarting production here in February.
Stellantis abandons plan to separate Opel
Unions and local politicians in Germany had criticized the lack of communication from Stellantis on its plans for the Russelsheim and Eisenach sites, especially on the plan to legally separate them from the Opel entity. The manufacturer had explained in September that the design reform would make it possible to gain efficiency and flexibility. The powerful organization IG Metall accused it in turn of “breaking up” Opel and threatened the company with a violent conflict.
In a statement, the IG Metall trade union announced that the works council and employee representatives had agreed that the split project was “no longer on the table”. Eisenach will however become an independent company within Opel Automobile GmbH, but the legal structure of Russelsheim will not change, the union added.
“The transfer and division of Opel has been prevented and jobs have been found. I hope that from now on the management will lead the company in a more constructive and transparent way in the future”, commented Joerg Koehlinger, representative of IG Metall. Stellantis also confirmed this part of the agreement.
Union concern over factory modernization
Since the creation of the group in January, general manager Carlos Tavares has been working on the modernization of many plants inherited in Europe from PSA, Opel-Vauxhall and Fiat. Each site should eventually be able to produce almost any model of the ten current Stellantis brands from a few common designs.
Even if Stellantis has promised that the PSA-FCA merger will not result in site closures, this change makes unions fear that one day the group will decide to do without its uncompetitive factories, especially when they are deprived of some. “The decision to close the factory for several months […] and volume transfers to other sites always raise fears of more sustainable transfers”said a union source.
Grandland production was launched in 2017 on the lines of Sochaux, before the car went to Eisenach. This is where the German cousin of the Peugeot 2008 will end its career, around 2024, when its successor will be announced.
By Reuters (Reporting by Gilles Gillaume in Paris and Victoria Waldersee in Berlin; Editing by Blandine Hénault and Jean-Michel Bélot)
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