Frankfurt — Peugeot subsidiary Opel said on Tuesday it would offer 2,100 more German workers voluntary redundancies, as it struggles to stay afloat faced with collapsing demand and an EU emissions squeeze.

“The voluntary leave programme will be reopened for employees ... limited to a maximum of 2,100 positions,” the company said in a statement. But forced redundancies would be ruled out until at least 2025, it said.

Meanwhile, Opel’s main Ruesselsheim plant will be outfitted to produce the next generation Astra sedan in internal combustion and hybrid versions, “providing the perspective for many years of manufacturing”.

After years of losses under GM, Opel returned to the black under its new owner in 2018, selling about a million vehicles.

“This agreement creates a further considerable improvement of our competitiveness” and “gives our employees long-term security”, said CEO Michael Lohscheller.

The historic German carmaker, which Peugeot bought from US-based General Motors in 2017, had already slashed almost 7,000 of 19,000 jobs since the takeover as the industry grapples with lower global demand.

But rather than sales challenges, Opel highlighted “ever-stricter CO² (carbon dioxide) regulations that the entire automotive industry is facing” as the main reason for Tuesday’s move.

From this year, manufacturers in the EU must reach average CO² emissions across their new vehicle fleets of below 95 grams per kilometre, on pain of harsh fines.

About 40,000 job cuts have been announced by major German carmakers for  coming years — half of them at Daimler and Audi alone — as the industry scrambles to adapt to the changes, including a shift to less labour-intensive electric vehicles.

German car production fell to its lowest level in 22 years in 2019.


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