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Opel boss departs as PSA takeover looms closer


Opel CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann has announced his departure from the Russelsheim based automaker in the run-up to its merger with the PSA Group.

The 56 year old, who took over as head of the troubled General Motors (GM) owned automaker and its UK subsidiary Vauxhall in 2013, is reportedly expected to return to his former employer Volkswagen, with rumours suggesting he will replace current Audi boss Rupert Stadler in light of damning criticisms resulting from the ongoing dieselgate emissions saga.

"It was a difficult personal decision to not continue with the Opel/Vauxhall team when it transitions to Groupe PSA. I am proud of the team for all we have accomplished so far and have no doubt that the move to PSA will make Opel/Vauxhall an even stronger and more successful company in the future," Neumann said in a statement.

In March, GM announced it has sold Opel/Vauxhall to PSA for a reported €2.2-billion (R30.3-billion), following substantial losses amounting a reported $15-billion (R195-billion), and failure to garner any profit since 1999. At the same time, the Financial Times estimated Opel's losses for 2016 to be $257-million (R3.3-billion), with the resulting fallout from Brexit and decline of the Pound stifling any hopes of a reverse in fortunes.

Last month, the company also announced its exit from South Africa by the end of 2017, pulling the plug on production of the Chevrolet Spark and Utility at its Struandale Plant in Port Elizabeth, and selling its business to Isuzu as part of an expansive restructuring process which has since involved departures from Europe, India, Indonesia, Singapore and ending local production of Holden in Australia.

"As the industry continues to change, we are transforming our business, establishing GM as a more focused and disciplined company," GM CEO Mary Barry said at the time.

"Globally, we are now in the right markets to drive profitability, strengthen our business performance and capitalise on growth opportunities for the long term. We will continue to optimise our operations market by market to further improve our competitiveness and cost base".

Opel has meanwhile confirmed that its Chief Financial Officer, Michael Lohscheller (pictured above), would replace Neumann as CEO, although the latter is expected to remain on the company's management board until the sale to PSA is finalised.

Speaking in a subsequent statement, PSA CEO Carlos Tavares, who previously expressed his desire to keep the existing Opel board in place, said it had accepted Neumann's decision and that it fully supports Lohscheller's appointment in turning the loss making company around.

"My personal interactions with Michael have been extremely positive, where he has shown a great deal of insight of Opel and Vauxhall, as well as a solid understanding of the international marketplace. I am enthusiastic about the idea of contributing to the rebirth of Opel as a sustainable German-based company within Groupe PSA," Tavares said.

According to reports, PSA is expected to complete its acquisition of Opel/Vauxhall fully by next month.

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