How Opel, Peugeot showed off their cultural differences

GENEVA -- OK, here’s one indication that there might be some cultural distance between General Motors and Peugeot, at least in operating style.

At the auto show here, GM basically explained its alliance with Peugeot by putting Opel chief Karl-Friedrich Stracke in a series of journalistic roundtables in cramped interview rooms. But Peugeot invited a group of journalists to a luncheon briefing at a nearby hotel.

As waiters poured wine and journalists dined on roasted guinea fowl breast with balsamic vinegar gravy and risotto, PSA Peugeot Citroen Chairman Phillippe Varin led a team of executives in a nearly hourlong Q&A session.

Basically, the story remained consistent with early explanations of the alliance: Peugeot gets some cash; both companies could be saving a combined $2 billion annually within five years; and a jointly developed platform will produce vehicles by 2016.

The alliance doesn’t address factory overcapacity or broader collaboration. Specifics will emerge later. It’s too soon to discuss, for instance, which components the partners will target for savings, what suppliers they will squeeze or exactly what the 2016 vehicle project will be.

Jean-Christophe Quemard, executive vice president for vehicle programs, did say, intriguingly, that “We don’t exclude any option for any reason at any time.”

He qualified that, adding, “We are in very preliminary phases.”

Highly civilized, in other words, but a little thin on details.

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