Lopez hits back at GM accusations: I did not join Volkswagen for the money, declares man at centre of car makers' dispute

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The Independent Online
JOSE Ignacio Lopez de Arriortua, the Volkswagen production chief accused of industrial espionage by his former employer General Motors, yesterday denied he had approached VW for a job and that he or his colleagues stole documents from the US car maker.

Mr Lopez rebutted claims that he had left his job as GM's global purchasing head for the money, describing speculation about his salary as fantastic. 'You need to take a figure in the newspaper and divide by a number between one and ten - nearer ten,' he said. 'I could have earned much more money if I had stayed in America.'

Mr Lopez and seven colleagues he brought with him from GM face legal action over allegations that they brought secret documents from the US car giant's Detroit headquarters.

But Mr Lopez said that he and his team had signed letters saying they would not take any secrets. 'We took only our knowledge, our opinions, nothing more.'

Mr Lopez also disputed a claim by Ferdinand Piech, VW's chairman, that he had approached VW for a job just months after being promoted to one of GM's senior executive positions. He said a European middleman had rung him in early December and had also contacted VW.

Mr Lopez used an address to the International Management Symposium to stake a claim for the moral high ground in a saga that has already seen several legal tussles between GM and VW.

He said the decision to leave GM had been tough. He decided to leave because his priorities were first his country, then his family, then his career. 'I have my dreams to work for Europe, which is now in a very bad state,' he added.

Mr Lopez, from Spain's Basque country, said he hoped to help build Europe's industrial base. He discussed his desire to return to his home continent with his boss at GM, who had understood why he wished to do so.

'My team gave General Motors a lot of very good things,' he said. 'I then received a call to serve Europe, Volkswagen in Germany, the locomotive of Europe.' He was happy and successful at GM and had many good friends at the company - 'although not so many now', he added.

FRANKFURT (AFX) - A regional court rejected a motion filed by General Motors seeking to bar the seven former executives from working for Volkswagen for a year. GM was unable to prove that the seven were lured illegally to Volkswagen.