The problem with commenting on a situation that is changing day by day is that what is true today may not be true tomorrow.

We may know nothing today, know something tomorrow and discover something we didn’t know a week later. It reminds me of the answer provided by Donald Rumsfeld 15 years ago when questioned about the US involvement in Iraq.

He said, “There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

 What are the known knowns? We know that GM has not made a profit in Europe for more than 15 years, maybe more. We know that there is manufacturing overcapacity in Europe and a restructuring is long overdue. 

We know that Vauxhall’s market share in the UK has deteriorated in recent years and its long held No 2 positon in the new car registration charts behind Ford is under threat. We also know that several of Opel Vauxhall’s best-selling models compete directly with Citroen and Peugeot.

 What are the known unknowns? We don’t know if the PSA Group (partly owned by the French government) will be sympathetic to the pleas of British and German politicians and union leaders. We don’t know if GM will insist on the continuation of the Opel and Vauxhall brands as part of the deal. 

And we don’t know if GM and PSA are secretly collaborating to force through capacity and staff reductions of their own by using the threat of a sale/purchase of Opel Vauxhall.

What are the unknown unknowns? Maybe only the French government, GM and PSA will know. 

The statement from the PSA Group confirms that it and GM “are exploring numerous strategic initiatives aiming at improving profitability and operational efficiency, including a potential acquisition of Opel Vauxhall by PSA.” 

Meanwhile GM stated: “Our objective in exploring opportunities with PSA Group is to build on the success of Opel Vauxhall and to put the business and the operations in the strongest possible position for the future.” 

These, what could be considered to be complementary if slightly contradictory statements, do beg the question – why does GM believe PSA can achieve something it has failed to do?

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