Breakfast, Dinner and Lunch All Over Again

According to Automotive News Europe, Opel will reduce the number of models it sells. You won’t be surprised, will you?

2016 Buick Cascada: Buick

Additionally, purchasing activities will be shared alongside PSA platforms. The Ruesselsheim design and engineering centre will be charged with electrification of PSA vehicles and, finally, Opel will expand into territories that were previously taboo under GM.

The first point can be taken to mean more vehicles like the Crossland which already uses a shared platform with PSA. The bundled purchasing operation probably translates into more parts commonality among which will be engines or eventually electric power trains. Engines are typically a clear generator of brand character (or lack thereof); add characterless electric and hybrid powertrains to the mix and one can see a growing hazard for PSA in meaningless differentiation.

This leads us to the last point: new markets for Opel. Currently Opel is stranded in Europe although some of its output found customers in the US as Buicks (the Insignia, the Cascada and the previous Astra.) So, where will Opel head to now it can compete against GM? North America has been a hard market for PSA to crack. One scenario sees Opel as a “German” brand for PSA to push in the US, as a kind of wolf´s clothing for PSA’s platform sheep. Possible models (or their successors) would be the Astra and Crossland cars. In another scenario, Opel might be sold in Australia once the models have been refreshed with PSA platforms. One can imagine that Holden might not be too keen on seeing similar Opel models appearing on the market to face their domestic versions. Finally, there is Japan where PSA has been absent more or less forever. However, if the US market is a hard one, the Japanese market is even tougher and GM have never done well there – Opel would probably not fare any better. Finally: China. Ironically, this would mean Opel battling its quondam cousin Buick – again, once the overlapping products have been dealt with.

2017 Opel Crossland

No doubt there are many readers who aren’t that bothered by Opel’s gradual fading away. From a customer point of view, it means less choice among mid-price brands. It also means for many employed by Opel an uncertain future, from administrators to designers and engineers to line-workers. From my partisan point of view, it means a worthy contender in the volume-market will be hollowed out just after a long and gradual return to making creditable and often well-styled vehicles.

And there’s always Vauxhall. I give that brand under a decade.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

12 thoughts on “Breakfast, Dinner and Lunch All Over Again”

  1. PSA already stopped using engines as a brand characteristic several decades ago.
    Think of the PRV V6, the Douvrin and ‘suitcase’ four cylinders and the newer ‘belt drive’ ES9J4 V6 that were all shared or co-developed with Renault (and some more in case of the PRV).
    My guesstimate is that PSA will fit their engines in the existing Opel models as soon as possible (no great loss as Opel’s engines are notoriously mediocre or bought in anyway like the diesels and PSA at least has some co-developments with BMW on offer) and when these are replaced the new version will be based on PSA platforms and be built in France. PSA’s factories have enough spare production capacity to replace most of Opel’s output and their lack of workload is one of PSA’s biggest problems. That leaves Rüsselsheim as a potential development centre for electro cars only and maybe a small portion of Rüsselsheim’s current production capacity will be used for building these cars.

    1. Engines as brand characteristic is highly overrated. Unless it’s a unique selling point like the BMW straight six, I dare anyone to make the difference between a four cylinder diesel from either PSA, VW, Fiat, or Opel. They are virtually indistinguishable, because they all have the exact same objective.

      I’d say the french was in the forefront of not giving a shit, they simply could not afford to develop objectvely similar engines separately, they had to co operate out of necessity. Simca engines in Peugeot, Peugeot engines in Talbot, Renault engines in Citroën, the Citroën converted diesel (not the Indenor unit, mind you) in the Sevel vans. And so on.

      They made a virtue of necessity, and they had no qualms about prestige in any directions. The Douvrin engine was mostly a Renault unit but found its way to the CX because Citroëns own engines simply wasn’t good enough.

      The Peugeot XUD and TUD diesels went into every PSA car and was widely exported to other car makers because it was the best diesel on the market for almost twenty years. While the Simca 180 engine found its way to the Talbot Tagora and the Matra Murena and the 505 Turbo.

    2. The differences aren’t as marked as they used to be, but even today, I could clearly point out its engine as the main shortcoming of the Kia Ceed I was given as a rental car this summer. That and its clumsy satnav – so there you go: both old school and high tech components can make one hell of a difference.

      I’m also usually delighted when I don’t have to drive around in some downsized concoction (which the Kia wasn’t, truth be told). Ford’s three cylinder turbo engine may be fine, but the girlfriend still has steam coming out of her ears when I remind her of the BMW 316i courtesy car she got to ‘enjoy’ last year.

      Of course, a couple of decades ago, it was all very different. Most Fiats could be heard rusting at night, but that wouldn’t prevent their engines from being significantly more amusing than their Volkswagen counterparts.

    3. I’m absolutely convinced that a major factor it not the most important one for the Alfa 159’s complete failure in the market was in its selection of engines. Nearly no brand is defined so much by its engines as Alfa and offering a car (that was not overly convincing as an Alfa in the first place) with engines so widely off the mark is suicide with announcement. Particularly replacing the Busso V6 by the nasty Holden (-derived) engine was a terminal shoot in the foot.

  2. Less choice?

    In terms of sheer numbers, maybe. But hardly a reduction in any meaningful sense.

    My local multiplex offers a wide choice of movies, but 95% of them are made by the same handful of studios and often follow similar themes. A choice of 4 rather than 5 identikit front drive ‘crossovers’ really means little to me.

    1. Yes: they aren’t precisely the same as competitors’ cars. Also, less competition means the others don’t need to try as hard to excel or distinguish themselves.

  3. Ingvar: that’s all true and tedious. Still, two different manufacturers will unavoidably produce slightly. different solutions and that’s the straw I was grasping at.
    The XU engine in my XM is the heart and soul of the car…

  4. Take this question a step further, do we even need separate conglomerates anymore? Magna Steyr was in the talks of stepping out as a car maker on its own, because they could already produce a No Brand car off the shelves from parts it made for other makers. How about open source production, third party tiers offering everyone everything? That’s how Borgward does it. If the brand is everything while the product is not, then this whole business model has seized to be. And it wouldn’t have to be a bad thing. I can see a possibility for enormous creativity if all makers could free the chains of corporate sovereignity.

  5. Is Opel really fading away in Europe? In France, Opel was the brand with the strongest growth of all brands last month. Amd I see a lot of markets in Eastern Europe for Opel. And in South America too.

    I am sure, PSA will build a better model range for Opel than GM did. I do not understand, why Opel is offering with the Mokka and the Crossland two different cars of the same size, with the same prize tag and the same design speech. At the same time, Opel is no longer offering a hot Astra OPC or sporty versions for other cars of their range.
    I am convinced, PSA is helping Opel by giving them their lost personality back. Not with a lot of strange and expensive marketing ideas like Tina Müller, but with cars their customers are longing for.

    1. The Astra OPC is an odd ommission. The last three were great looking cars. I particularly liked the last generation. I don’t see why it didn’t sell better on looks alone. Plainly CUVs have strangled the market.

  6. Today Opel made a press announcement about their future plans.
    Top priority is given to cost cutting measures. This is to be achieved by streamlining with PSA.
    Two new models in the pipeline are cancelled because they’re based on GM platforms. They will be replaced by PSA based cars that are expected to be 700 Euros per car cheaper, making production profitable from 800,000 units per year.
    Synergy effects with PSA are expected to yield 1,1 billion Euros in cost reduction per year. Sales growh is expected to come from export to twenty new countries.

    1. Yay. Sounds simply mouth-watering.

      New Opel is clearly putting customer satisfaction at the heart of everything they do.

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