FRANKFURT/PARIS -- General Motors and PSA Group bosses are striving to contain anger in Germany over their plans for the French automaker to buy GM's European Opel/Vauxhall business.
GM CEO Mary Barra visited Opel's headquarters in Ruesselsheim near Frankfurt, on Wednesday while PSA said its CEO Carlos Tavares planned to meet senior German officials, possibly including Chancellor Angela Merkel, in the near future.
GM and PSA caused outrage in Germany on Tuesday by confirming they were in talks that could result in PSA buying GM's European operations without having consulted Berlin or informed workers.
Opel employs about half its workers, just over 19,000 people, in Germany. It also has plants in Austria, Hungary, Poland, Spain and Britain, where it uses the Vauxhall brand.
The German government said on Wednesday it would "accompany" talks on PSA's plans to buy Opel. "The government has a strong interest in a successful future for the business and its sites. Of course, this is about corporate decisions and I have no evaluation to give on that," government spokesman Steffen Seibert said. "Nonetheless, given the constellation here and the significance for jobs at several German sites, it is clear that the government will accompany this process," he told a regular government news conference.
Germany's labor minister, Andrea Nahles, said there were talks "at all levels" with Opel, GM and PSA to ensure that Opel's three plants in Germany remained open in the event of a sale. "The German government intensively discussed at a cabinet meeting today the issue of Opel," Nahles said.
Separately, the UK's Department for Business said it was in contact with GM over the potential deal. GM's Vauxhall plants employ 4,500 staff in Ellesmere Port, northwest England, and in Luton, north of London.
"The government remains in close contact with GM as we closely monitor the situation," a spokesman for the Department of Business said, adding that the minister Greg Clark had already raised his concerns with GM President Dan Ammann.
Britain's largely foreign-owned car industry has thrived in recent years, but the vote last June to leave the European Union has cast doubt on future growth by raising the prospect of tariffs which would make UK plants less competitive. Britain's car industry, which ships more than half of its exports to the other 27 countries in the EU, had lobbied hard against Brexit.
Prime Minister Theresa May's government has already been forced to pull a deal together to persuade Nissan to keep investing in Britain, saying it would counter any loss of competitiveness caused by Brexit.