Monday marked the end of an 88-year era as General Motors announced that it had sold Opel, along with its UK sister brand Vauxhall, to the PSA Group, which owns Peugeot and Citroen.
The deal, worth 2.2-billion euro (or R30.4bn), will see PSA become Europe’s second largest carmaker and the company expects the resulting synergies to eventually save in the region of 1.7bn euro (R23.3m), but what are the implications for South African consumers?
At the moment, the local divisions of both Peugeot and General Motors are taking a “business as usual” approach, reiterating that at this stage no changes to the local distribution have been announced.
In an official statement sent to us by GMSA, the company said: “We continue to market, distribute, sell and service Opel vehicles in South Africa. Opel has preserved its independence as part of the transaction and will work with PSA Group to ensure a smooth transition.”
We spoke to representatives from both companies and the general idea we got was that discussions still needed to take place between the two head offices and that it was too soon to comment on what the local implications might be in future.
GMSA no longer manufactures any Opel models at its Struandale plant in Port Elizabeth, but currently imports Adam, Corsa, Astra and Mokka vehicles in relatively low volumes. Just 4098 Opels were sold in 2016 (including 589 Adams, 1208 Corsas, 1178 Astras and 1123 Mokkas), however those are still bigger numbers than PSA achieved, having sold just 437 Citroëns and 982 Peugeots last year. On the one hand, PSA’s local division could do with the boost in volume, but on the other hand the company might just stick to its guns in concentrating solely on Peugeot, having dropped the Citroën brand from its local line-up late last year. But this is all speculation at the moment and when we know, so will you.
Future Opels to be Peugeot-based
One implication that’s practically guaranteed, however, is that future Opels will be heavily based on their Peugeot counterparts, sharing platforms, engines and technologies in a bid to save money through efficiencies of scale, in as far as purchasing and manufacturing is concerned, as well as via shared R&D costs.
Thankfully that's not going to result in any kind of badge-engineering frenzy. PSA will want to maintain Opel’s brand identity and thus future models are still sure to have their own look and feel, just as Peugeot and Citroën models do. Opel’s new Crossland X is already based on a Peugeot (the 2008) due to a previous deal between the two companies, and which will also result in the imminent Opel Grandland X, a C-segment crossover based on Peugeot’s EMP2 platform that also underpins the Peugeot 3008.
Given that the average length of a model cycle is six to seven years, it will take many years for Opel’s full range to become Peugeofied. One point of possible contention is the next-generation Opel Corsa, which is already at an advanced stage of development ahead of its planned release in 2018. Will Peugeot scrap it and instead work swiftly on a 208-based Corsa? Last month Peugeot insiders told Reuters that PSA would make “swift progress on technical convergence” and that this would include launching a Corsa based on Peugeot’s small car architecture.
It could take a bit longer to get Opel’s Astra onto the PSA EMP2 platform as the latest model was only released in 2015 and thus would not be due for replacement at least until 2021 – unless Peugeot fast-tracks the next generation. The Opel Insignia Grand Sport is an even more recent arrival that can only be paired up with the Peugeot 508 in the longer term.
And what about the Mokka? Is there really going to be space for it between the oddly-named Crossland and Grandland X crossovers? We wouldn’t be entirely surprised if it was eventually phased out.