Fact is, the role of Ruesselsheim within GM was scaled down two years ago when major responsibilities were transferred back to North America. Although the Germans did develop the underpinnings of key cars like the Chevrolet Cruze, the Opel Insignia/Buick Regal, and the Chevrolet Malibu, the small car emphasis has since shifted to Korea while Detroit is now calling the shots in terms of alternative drivetrains (Chevrolet Volt/Opel Ampera), and new crossover vehicles. At the same time, GM has pumped up its efforts to globalize the Chevrolet brand. By 2012, Chevrolet could effectively replace Opel/Vauxhall in Europe with products engineered by Opel (Sonic/Cruze/Malibu), yet built in low labor-cost Asia. This approach should yield a 15 to 20 percent cost advantage, which could be decisive in a market punished by overcapacities and cut-throat rebates. Even proposed new products like the Opel Mini (conceived and made in Korea) and the still tentative flagship model (to be based on a U.S. crossover model) would weaken rather than strengthen Opel's mission as an engineering hub in GM's global organization.
Assuming GM is really serious about selling Opel, the next question does of course revolve around potential buyers. The likelihood that Magna wants to get burned again is slim. Mercedes-Benz, which was briefly flirtatious with Opel, has since gone to bed with Renault-Nissan. All suitors must of course consider such obstacles as the uneconomical German production sites (Ruesselsheimn, Bochum, Eisenach), the strong German trade union influence, and the tough German insolvency laws (you cannot simply close a plant and walk away).
Although most parties would for these reasons think twice before investing in Opel, the one party that could be interested is the Communist party -- that is, the Chinese. Having just signed off the next five-year plan, leading Chinese politicians are now putting together a long-term scheme destined to provide its domestic auto industry with much more know-how and market power by 2020 and beyond. The Asians are aware that brands like Geely, BYD and Great Wall will take almost forever to be world-class competitors. Buying Opel, however, would provide the Central Committee with instant access to leading technologies and facilities. Unlike other candidates, the Chinese Council of State would probably even pay money for a loss-making Opel, and the cash might in fact continue to flow for quite a bit longer if GM was prepared to throw in intellectual properties and parts. In this way, the Chinese domestic car industry could instantly be virtually on eye level with those foreign investors it needed to get its automakers going in the first place.