Opel, the German vehicle brand owned by General Motors (GM) that is in the process of being sold to the French-based PSA Group, has confirmed its commitment to South Africa by appointing the Williams Hunt group, part of the Unitrans group, as the dedicated distributor of the brand in the country.

The appointment will be effective from January 1 next year.

The announcement followed the decision announced by GM last month to disinvest from South African shores and stop manufacturing and sales of Chevrolet vehicles in the country.

In terms of GM’s disinvestment plan, Japan-based Isuzu Motors, through a newly established company, Isuzu Motors South Africa, will acquire GM’s light commercial vehicle manufacturing operations in Struandale, Port Elizabeth, and continue manufacturing its Isuzu KB and medium-commercial vehicles and heavy-duty trucks in South Africa.

GM’s 132 dealers were to be reduced to about 90 Isuzu dealers in the restructuring.

GM sub-Saharan Africa president and managing director Ian Nicholls said last month at the disinvestment announcement that GM would work with PSA, the manufacturer of Peugeot and Citroen, to develop a future strategy for the Opel brand in South Africa.

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Opel director of international sales Bill Mott said the PSA deal was expected to be finalised in the second half of this year.

He said Opel did not see any direct relationship with the PSA group in South Africa and its relationship would be with the Williams Hunt group, which would represent the brand in the country in terms of the plan and strategy developed for South Africa.

He said the Williams Hunt group had been a key Opel partner in South Africa for many years and was today responsible for about 20percent of its national sales volumes.

Mott said Williams Hunt would establish 35 dealerships across the country to distribute and service Opel vehicles.

“Under our new structure, Opel owners can expect the same quality of after-sales care and there will be no change to existing warranties and service plans,” he added.

Roy Pepper, the divisional chief executive of Williams Hunt, said the group would not control all 35 dealers, but would franchise some to dealers within the existing GM dealer network.

Mott said this was an extremely exciting year for Opel, with its huge model offensive in full swing, which would result in seven new models being launched this year alone - the most new cars it had brought to market in a single year in its history.

He said Opel would be launching a total of 29 new models in the time frame from last year to 2020.

Among the seven newcomers launched this year was the new Crossland X, a sub-compact sport utility vehicle that would be launched in South Africa at the end of this year, and the Graceland X next year.

Nicholls said Opel had been selling cars in South Africa since the 1930s, and sales of the brand had grown 9.6percent over the past two years while the market had decreased by more than 15 percent.