The end of the GM era in Europe

Barely appreciated by the public, the GM era in Europe ended last week. Hardly anyone took note of the acquisition of Opel by the PSA group. GM said goodbye almost silently. Meanwhile, the German auto industry is struggling with diesel gate and antitrust suspicion. There is hardly room for sentimentality.

Opel and Saab in Hamburg. The end of the GM era.

But it can also be due to the low importance that Opel has for Germany today. This has not always been the case in 88 years as a GM company. Opel - the name stood for a long time for profitability and annual transfers to Detroit. The market share was temporarily over 80% in the 19s, and Opel was a piece of the old Federal Republic. Whole generations grew up with Kadett and Ascona, later with Astra and Vectra. Opel was diverse, solid, and long ago even the market leader in the luxury class.

The big time is long ago, the turning point must have been somewhere over 30 years ago. At the end of the 80 years, Detroit issued the slogan that cars of the future should only be cheap means of transport without an image. In retrospect, the biggest misjudgment of the decade, because at the same time German suppliers launched a strategy that is now on everyone's lips as a premium. The first vehicle of new thinking at Opel was the Astra F. A cheap made Golf rival, which was shockingly badly processed and already began to age in the time lapse directly after production.

In addition, Opel announced that in the future no Innovator, but a "fast-follower”Wants to be. The aim was to introduce innovations from the competition that came from the suppliers' factories quickly and, above all, cheaply into their own brands. A thinking that continues to this day and that has brought Opel the image of a cheap brand.

The relationship between Opel and Saab

In 1990 Saab joined the GM family. The Swedes were happy to have found a platform for the new Saab 900, and the accountants at GM were happy to have saved development costs on a model that was almost completely developed. The relationship between Trollhättan and Opel was soon marked by destructive rivalry. In Hesse, many Saab developments were successfully sabotaged, and innovations were introduced in their own models rather than in the Swedish premium subsidiary.

The Swedes were considered uncomfortable lateral thinkers and troublemakers who, to make matters worse, kept making the developers in Rüsselsheim look old - for the very last time in engine development, when they brought a clean diesel with less than 120 g / CO2 per kilometer in the Saab 9-3 . What Opel had previously rejected as impossible and tried to prevent.

The low point of the relationship between Saab and Opel had been reached when they wanted to produce the new 9-5 in the Hessian parent plant. To compensate would be in Sweden cheap Opel Corsa small cars run off the line. When in winter 2009 GM decided to end Saab and the Swedish employees had to leave the German development center, the Opel colleagues should have applauded enthusiastically.

Saab did not survive GM. What is left of Opel?

And today? Saab did not survive the GM era in Europe. And GM has bought free from Opel. The purchase price is lower than the billions of pension obligations assumed by the Americans. In Detroit, they wanted to get out of a brand and a market for which they no longer see a profitable future. This is the unvarnished truth behind the story.

And really, beyond all slogans, things look bleak at Opel. Engines and transmissions have been considered obsolete for years and the factories are underutilized. Two plants are to be closed, future technology - nonexistent. The Ampera E and its technology belong to GM. For years, every second Opel vehicle in Germany has been put on the market as a self-registration. The company is in deficit and the UK market is falling for Vauxhall.

Opel for China?

The French will drive a rigid refurbishment course with the old brand Opel. The new Corsa was stopped because he still had built on a GM platform. Instead, he comes on a PSA platform. From 2020 a return on sales of 2% is expected, rising every year. What the PSA Group has in mind with the Opel brand is to be guessed at.

In China, the group struggles with difficulties and gets, to the annoyance of major shareholder Dongfeng, no foot on the market. The new, exclusively for China built Citroen C6 is a flop. The brand Opel could fix it. Chinese are on German labels. Maybe even if they build on French platforms. Maybe not. Dongfeng, it is rumored, has taken a look at the Opel-developed GM E2XX platform of the Insignia / Buick Regal and would prefer these.

The management of Opel got with the takeover by the PSA group a generous premium on the accounts. Ex-Opel boss Neumann will act as future Audi CEO. The employees of the old, traditional German brand and their locations should wish you luck for the future. You might need it.

16 thoughts on "The end of the GM era in Europe"

  • Many years ago, when my first SAAB was broken (throttle), I had a Opel Corsa as a rental car. But apart from the missing 80 PS, which of course made noticeable, I had since the Opel nothing to complain about. That was just the time when Opel realized that you can not save healthy and spent money again for the model development.

    I only had contact again the other day, when the hose to the turbocharger broke on my current SAAB and I had to drive to a nearby Opel dealer, which used to include the SAAB Zentrum Saarbrücken. During the repair period, I was able to look around for quite a while, and most of what I saw already looked pretty fancy, especially the new Insignia, even if the space was very much like a tailor-made suit. Well, I have not driven anything, but the reports in the press were consistently quite positive.

    I'm excited to see what Opel will do under French aegis ... that they can also build cars, I'm convinced of that. The question for me is how the model ranges are adapted to each other, or whether the markets are divided regionally (southern and northern Europe, etc.).

  • That you as a corporation have the Deviese can not be innovative was really new to me, I've read the article until today a few times, now I also know a lot why the marriage SAAB-GM could not work. Gyro Gearworm meets accountant: -O !! But it still does not really go into my head, why a global corporation does not want to afford 3000 developers and fitters in Sweden. And now Opel repelled, so even fewer American cars on Europe's roads.

  • Ultimately, GM failed to clearly separate the individual group brands from one another in good time. Synergies are not everything. Tata is much more skilled at Jaguar and Land Rover. Geely also seems to be smartly managed at Volvo. Now that the German premium brands are coming under enormous pressure due to the Dieselgate and customers are looking for alternatives, a brand like Saab is missing. I'm curious to see when and, above all, how Borgward will finally get out of the starting blocks ...

    • Who says that Saab would not have been involved in a “Dieselgate” if the brand still existed. Just because you associate Sweden with beautiful picture book landscapes a la Pipi Longstocking and Saab was such a small “non-conformist” manufacturer? They should have complied with the exhaust gas values ​​and either only managed it with huge technical effort, which is accordingly expensive and has to be paid for by the customer. They couldn't have coped with even less profit anyway.

  • Thanks for the background article about the GM farewell. Do not mourn the farewell. It looks bitter for OPEL ... But let's see how the current “TOP suppliers” from Germany survive the current engine and confidence crisis ... I hope TESLA and Co. continue to chase many customers. from!

  • Everything in Buick is stolen. I wrote years ago that GM only stole technology etc ... everyone laughed at me ..... Thanks for this entry, that confirms, I was right! Our cars have long been produced ... .. I'm 60 and only drive Saab, all my life!

    Saab forever !!! Have 4 pcs at home ...

  • Honestly, I never would have wanted an Opel. For the employees, I have compassion, but the brand is just over. There are completely different manufacturers disappeared from the stage. But wait, there was a single model that I still like today, the Calibra Turbo. Perhaps the only Opel that has been competitive in recent decades. Nicer than the Corrado or the Audi 80 Coupe. And the models produced in Finland were really well made.

  • Exciting. Good article.

    Many thanks to the author and good luck to the Opel employees! Wouldn't it be a shame about the brand, even if you as a SAABist associate little positive with it ...

  • The model ranges from PSA and Opel are practically identical. So I didn't get the whole deal right ... who apart from top management has an advantage? Above all, I wish the numerous Opel employees all the best for the years to come and that the old German brand will somehow find its way back on track.

    During my holidays I received an Opel Astra as a rental car before 2 weeks. First there was joy, an Opel in Ireland is quite OK. The disillusionment followed quickly: very tough and sluggish petrol engine, monochrome radio display (as with the Japanese in the 80 years) and many annoying little things. Year of construction: 2016. Even with a lot of goodwill and the assumption that the Irish car rental companies are not exactly ordering the top-of-the-range full-featured, the driving feel and material appeal of this year-old car was about 10 to 15 years behind the times. He was actually quite nice from the outside. Too bad, but the competitors themselves from the Far East are doing much better now ...

    • .. had, as I have my new 9-7x hired, want to rent a Golf and get a new Astra with turbo and Navi incl. Carplay. It was good to drive and completely up to date. Only the SAAB-usual turbo boost was missing, the passage overall but good. Auh the interior was not compared with the last of me 5 years ago Astra Astra and quite pleasant.

  • It was already foreseeable at the “end” of SAAB Cars that OPEL would soon be caught. Thanks to some capable managers who have meanwhile left the house, this had been delayed. What comes depends solely on the French and Chinese. GM finally embarrassed itself for the last time with the “new Mazda clone Insignia” and the yawning boring Astra and couldn't help but close the chapter. I think OPEL will go hops - a shame!

  • A few years ago, no one expected GM to really go. For Opel, this is really hard, you do not need to get the pink glasses out of the drawer. The auto industry is not what it used to be.

  • Exciting article. It begs me what would have happened to SAAB if GM had not killed it? Would SAAB be part of PSA, OPEL, or Chinese? Or a brand of VOLVO?

    • You shouldn't cling to old brand names (such as SAAB) too much. What is really important is what a manufacturer puts on the wheels - in the automotive industry, with extremely high quantities worldwide, it should, in particular, be environmentally friendly.

      GM and almost all other old manufacturers have so far steadfastly defied this requirement. If the small Swedish manufacturer from Trollhättan had found accommodation with one of these companies, according to the current state of knowledge, this would probably not have been a good thing - similar to that under GM.

      On the other hand, I would be delighted if you could finally buy an environmentally friendly and otherwise well-made car made in Trollhättan - if it says NEVS on it, this would definitely not be an argument against it for me.

      I would love to try out the 9-3 X-EV that has already been shown. There could possibly be more of it - the prerequisite is of course the possibility of purchase. TESLA shows us that it works!

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