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.
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.