Johannesburg – Opel owners and fans can breathe a sigh of relief: the future of the brand in South Africa is assured with Wednesday's announcement that the Williams Hunt group will take over as the dedicated distributor of the German brand.
This follows last month's shock revelation by General Motors that it would disinvest from South Africa and that from the end of this year it would no longer locally build or import Chevrolets. With Isuzu being taken over by the newly-established Isuzu Motors South Africa, it left the fate of Opel up in the air.
But at a Johannesburg media briefing on Wednesday it was announced that from January 2018 Williams Hunt will sell Opels through an exclusive network of 35 dealers, promising the same quality of aftersales service. All current Opel warranties and service plans are also to remain in place.
In addition to the initial 35 dealers, the local distributor said it is open to franchising out additional service outlets and may expand its sales network in the future if the need arises. Opel will still use GM's existing parts distribution centre in Coega, which will be owned by Isuzu Trucks.
Although many had (quite logically) assumed that since PSA (Peugeot-Citroen) had bought the Opel brand from General Motors earlier this year, the local PSA arm would take over Opel’s South African distribution, yet according to Opel, the two operations will remain entirely separate on local soil.
Incidentally, PSA’s struggling South African arm recently entered into a partnership with a company called VT Holding, the latter taking a 49 percent stake.
Opel has a long and distinguished history in South Africa, with a presence in the market since the 1930s.
Bill Mott, Opel's director of international sales operations, told the media briefing that Opel is focused on growth in South Africa and has clear objectives in mind to achieve this.
“We view South Africa as an important market,” Mott enthused. “We are confident that the brand will continue to grow from strength to strength globally, and here in South Africa, because of the solid foundation that has been built in the 80-plus years Opel has been here.”
New products to be launched here include the Opel Crossland X subcompact SUV at the end of the year, and the bigger Grandland X coming in early 2018.
The Crossland X (above) slots beneath the Mokka and although local details have yet to be released, overseas customers get five engine options, including a new PSA-sourced 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbopetrol and a 1.6 turbodiesel.
Whereas the Crossland X is based on Peugeot’s 2008, the Grandland X shares its underpinnings with the new Peugeot 3008 and will compete with the Hyundai Tucson and Volkswagen Tiguan.
The new crossover duo will line up alongside Opel's existing local model range, namely the Adam, Corsa, Mokka X, and Car-of-the-Year-winning Astra.