The big business story of today is the UK government joining the debate over the future of GM Europe.
Why the sudden interest in GM Europe?
Well, the 5,000 employes at Vauxhall's Ellesmere and Luton plants is a start. But the crisis at GM and its European arms is also coming to critical stage this week.
As GM nears bankruptcy, the whole business is being restructured. The European arm - GM Europe which includes Vauxhall and Opel - is being sold to the highest bidder. But because Opel employs 25,000 of its 50,000 auto workers in Germany, the bidders are offering to spare jobs in Germany in return for the German government's financial and vocal support. Although GM (and by proxy the US government) gets to make the final decision, it's an election year in Germany and their government is set to announce its preferred bidder today or tomorrow.
The problem for the UK is that any bidder getting the German government support will likely need to cut jobs elsewhere in GM Europe...a prime target being Vauxhall's UK operations.
Hence the Business Secretary Lord Mandelson intervening heavily in the debates. But the FT quotes a government insider as saying:
“We’re pedalling hard to get a commercial solution and not an overtly political one.”
Given that GM is being run by the US government, the Opel deal will be partly financed by the Germans, Fiat - the primary bidder - is being pressured by the Italian government, and two other bidders are a Russion oligarch and a state-owned Chinese auto company, the commercial future of GM Europe and the UK Vauxhall plants is intensely and overtly political.
We'll keep you updated on the progress of the German decision and any implication for UK manufacturing.