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Why GM is cautious about sale of Opel

Alisa Roth Aug 17, 2009
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Why GM is cautious about sale of Opel

Alisa Roth Aug 17, 2009
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TEXT OF STORY

Steve Chiotakis: GM has been negotiating for weeks over where it’s planning to sell its European unit, Opel. The two lead contenders are a Belgian investment company and a partnership between a Canadian parts-maker and a Russian bank. As Alisa Roth tells us, the big sticking point for General Motors is intellectual property.


Alisa Roth: When a company like GM sells off a division like Opel, what it’s really selling is its intellectual property. Because it’s the ideas that really make one car different from another.

Bill Dani is an intellectual property lawyer in Michigan. He says, yes, sure, there are factories and machines involved in these deals. But those are things you can replace.

Bill Dani: You can buy new tooling, you can set up a new plant. But intellectual property rights are exclusive and um you know without, if they’re protected by patents, you’re not going to be able to reproduce them without licensing.

Which is why GM is being so careful about who ends up owning Opel. It doesn’t want its competitors using its platforms. Those are the basic forms of its vehicles.

Michael Robinet is in charge of global forecasting for the consultants CSM Worldwide. He says there are two key platforms at stake here. Which GM plans to use in the future to develop cars for international markets.

Michael Robinet: So it is critical that they have the capability to control those platforms going forward.

Because otherwise GM could find itself having to start from scratch. Or competing against its own ideas.

I’m Alisa Roth for Marketplace.

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