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Opel rescue debated

2009-03-09 06:25

Berlin/Frankfurt - Europe called for clarity on crisis-hit carmaker General Motor Corp's plans for assets in the region, with a German minister saying insolvency could be an option for Opel.

With carmakers dragged down by a sales slump, the future of GM's European assets, especially German brand Opel, remained up in the air. German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said Opel should not rule out an insolvency filing.

"The public perception is that insolvency is associated with going bust or bankruptcy. But that is wrong," he said in a newspaper interview. "We must grasp that to survive such a crisis, modern insolvency rules are a better solution than the state taking a stake".

GM's Swedish brand Saab has already sought protection from creditors.

GM Europe submitted a rescue plan for Opel last week under which the German unit along with UK-based Vauxhall would be partly spun off. It said the independent unit would need 3.3 billion euros ($4.2 billion) in state aid.

Decision to take weeks

German Economy Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg met Opel and GM executives on Friday and said it will take several weeks to decide whether to give state aid.

A spokeswoman for GM UK said the group would be in contact with the British government about its potential role in the future of Vauxhall, which has 5 000 workers in two plants and which has so far insisted it does not need cash from the state.

The British government pledged 2.3 billion pounds in loans to its car industry earlier this year, but manufacturers and industry bodies have complained they have not been told how to access the cash.

The industry is due to meet Business Secretary Peter Mandelson next week in an open seminar to discuss the issue.

The European Union's executive had on Thursday called for a meeting of member states affected by GM, saying the carmaker was not informing the bloc of its problems.

GM Europe's senior labour leader, Klaus Franz, lashed out at management, accusing executives of outbidding each other on job cut targets and scaring away politicians who didn't want to be seen using taxpayer money to fund large-scale staff reductions.

Read more on:    european union  |  michelin  |  reuters

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