Opel’s slow walk into the history books, to join Panhard and Saab, has begun. It occurred just as I came to understand what Opel was about.
You can read the technical details here. The important and ominous part is this: “Tavares told his board that PSA would redevelop the core Opel lineup with its own technologies to achieve rapid savings, according to people with knowledge of the matter” (from AN Europe).
While I was reviewing the last generation Opel Astra, I noted that the description of the mechanicals differed little from its peers. So, you might say, where is the great loss? Even if you don’t care for Opel, its absorption into the PSA combine will reduce meaningful competition among the most important classes of cars.
Because different people design and make it, the Astra offers an alternative to the Focus and Golf. It actually is different so that if you care about driving, you will notice the Astra does things its own way. And that matters. Despite the fact big-ticket cars appear on the car magazines’ covers every month, what people buy are the cars in the Corsa and Astra classes. These are the cars that people live with, that they buy. As soon as is possible, the Astra (if it has a future) will be made to differ from PSA’s Peugeot and Citroen equivalents in ways that are artificial. Remember how such a forced difference harmed Rover (v. BMW) and Lancia (v. Alfa Romeo). Yet, they will be similar because the underlying componentry will be the same. This is regrettable…
Just as I “get” Opel, I realise it will be taken away. Opel, in its current form, has found a set of values I rather like. I like the affordable prices, the style and the character – solid, well-engineered and comfortable. I really can’t imagine how PSA will keep Opel distinctive when there are not Opel engineers to achieve this aim by the simple fact that they are competitors.
Counterpoint: Nissan and Renault share platforms and nobody minds, you could say. Well, the firms have bases in Europe and Japan which helps. And Kia and Hyundai are paired. I’d agree that they seem to do okay but they are don’t offer a very big extra choice by their existence.
So, how soon will Opel vanish? If we take a look at the current range and then add eight years, we have some idea of how soon Opel will go the way of Talbot and Hillman, Humber and Sunbeam. It looks like a lot of the range will be gone by 2020 when the Opel Astra J cars finish up: the Astra Limousine, Cascada, Zafira and GTC; I’ve shortened the life of the Astra, as it were, because it’s an old platform already which dates from 2006. I can foresee Peugeot quickly doing an Opel spinoff of whatever they selling. Given the Peugeot 207 lasted six years, the 208 should last until 2018. So, that means the 2020 Corsa (if there is one will be paired with the 209.
I won’t go into a full model by model list. However, one sees that there are mismatches. Peugeot probably doesn’t need an Opel GTC or Opel Cascada partner for Peugeot’s equivalents (if they exist). The Astra Limousine is easy money for Opel since its existence is underwritten by the Chinese Excelle GT. Peugeot has no need of such a car though. The lovely Adam (its colourways deserve an award) will have no successor. Citroen’s mix and match DS cars probably serve the same market. The Comboo can go too as it is a rebadged Fiat from 2010.
The more one looks at the cars, there is little in Opel’s line-up that is not redundant or about to be replaced by a PSA clone. The upcoming Crosslanders already are. That leaves the Insignia Sports Tourer and Grand Tourer as the only items in the current portfolio that is unique to Opel that will not be gone by 2021. Its prospects aren’t that good either. The Peugeot 508 is nearing its end: it’s six years old now. Yet even if PSA bases the 509 on the Insignia, it will be a five year old platform by the time it is launched. So maybe the 509 will be badged an Opel in 2021 so as to phase out the 2017 Insignia.
I may very well be wrong in guessing PSA will discontinue the Opel brand. What is clear enough is that by 2025 the last “designed in Rüsselsheim” cars will be gone.
[On Thursday I was reminded that the Meriva has suicide rear doors. One happened to be in front of where I stood. They went to a lot of trouble to achieve that and it’s pretty overlooked.]