Opel dilemma

After a rapid alliance between General Motors and PSA (Peugeot Citroen Automobile Group), both parties reached a global strategic alliance. According to the agreement between the two parties, General Motors will acquire 7% of PSA shares for nearly 1 billion euros (contracts of US$1.34 billion), becoming the second largest shareholder of the PSA Peugeot Citroen Group after the Peugeot family.

At the operational level, OPEL, the general European subsidiary that has reached the moment of life and death, is the most direct means of achieving this alliance goal.

It is reported that the partnership between the two parties mainly includes two aspects: sharing vehicle platforms, accessories and modules, and will start cooperation in the fields of small and medium sized cars, utility vehicles and cross-border vehicles in advance; establish a global procurement joint venture company for procurement Materials, spare parts and other items and services.

This plan is considered to be a tailor-made rehabilitation strategy for Opel. The domestic media has even calculated the four major vehicle platforms that the two sides will lay out on this basis - small cars, compact cars, mid-size cars and cross-boundary cars, of which Opel's technology platform will become an important support.

However, although both GM and Opel are very clear about their biggest opportunity to hide in China, in the assessment of the parent company and its sub-brands, whether Opel, which has been in GM’s possession for many years, can sail through the European market crisis is still not an optimistic proposition.

Opel Recovery Plan

Europe is one of the three global general business segments (US, Europe, and China). As the largest business unit of General Europe, Opel is also a GM in Europe in a certain sense. Its share decline is a decade in Europe. The main cause of loss.

In 2011, GM suffered a loss of 700 million euros in Europe. This made GM, which regained its global sales championship, quite embarrassing. Of the 700 million euros lost, 575 million euros (about 747 million US dollars) came from Opel.

According to reports from foreign sources, GM, which is eager to achieve the return of Opel’s losses, is exerting pressure on the Opel decision-making tier, which may prompt the board of supervisors to decide to shut down two production plants in Germany and the United Kingdom in 2015.

Although Opel is a relatively unfamiliar automobile brand for Chinese consumers, in Europe and Germany as a whole, Opel has indeed had its name as a European "automobile gem" with a long history.

Opel, founded by Adan Opel in 1862, initially produced sewing machines and bicycles. In 1897, it began to produce cars. By 1914, Opel had become Germany's largest car manufacturer. In 1924, the company built a 45-meter-long German production line for automobiles, which led to a surge in car production and dominated the German cheap car sector. By 1928, Opel had occupied more than one-third of the German car market.

However, due to concerns about the then German government, the Opel family sold 80% of the company's shares to General Motors in 1929. From then on, Opel became a subsidiary of General Motors in Germany. In 1931, GM bought all Opel shares. The following year, Opel became the largest car manufacturer in Europe.

Although under OGM, Opel had a glorious history, but in the eyes of the Germans, it is also common to force the 150-year-old car brand into trouble.

In response, Europe began to express its dissatisfaction with GM. They believe that GM does not want Opel to appear on any world outside of Europe in order to protect the interests of the brand.

When GM decided to sell its loss-making Opel in 2009, it was analyzed that 9 out of every 10 cars sold by Opel were sold in Europe, and only one was sold to other regions. In order to prevent Opel from competing with "our own brand", GM prohibited Opel from entering the United States and the increasingly prosperous Brazilian market. The Opel brand has little influence in the fastest-growing Chinese market. In 2011, Opel sold only 5,000 cars in China. In the same year, Volkswagen sold 2.25 million cars in China, almost twice as much as Opel's sales in the world in one year.

In the face of these accusations, GM had to change. According to a report by the "Mirror" of Germany, the Global General Motors Business Conference recently showed an internal strategy document entitled "Global Factory Imprinting". This document shows that Opel plans to upgrade the factories of China, South Korea and Mexico to the European market. The volume of exports will increase by 300,000 vehicles/year on the existing basis by 2016.

Increasingly loud Chinese plans

It is clear that the European market, which is shrinking, cannot quickly rejuvenate Opel. In order to win more emerging markets, GM’s input on Opel’s Chinese genes has also started.

According to the "European Auto News" report recently, General Motors is working with China's SAIC Group to create a series of new small gasoline engines, and Opel brand new car Junior will likely be equipped with the engine's first model. In the future, the new engine is also expected to be used in other brands of General Motors vehicles.

General Motors and SAIC reached an agreement in October last year to begin cooperation in R&D for automotive powertrains. General Motors, Shanghai Automotive, Shanghai GM, and PATAC (Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center) will jointly develop engines and automatic transmissions.

One of the key areas is the joint development of a series of small gasoline engines, mainly three- and four-cylinder configurations, with displacements ranging from 1.0 to 1.4 liters. Jeff Lux, Opel Powertrain Design Director, points out that the entry-level model of the new Regal prototype, the Opel Insignia midsize sedan, may also use the new small engine to replace the currently used 1.4-liter turbocharger Petrol Engine. Within two years, the lineup of power products will also include new mid-size engines, including 1.6 liters of diesel and gasoline turbocharged engines. "At the end of this decade, new engines will largely replace Opel's existing engine products."

The implantation of Chinese genes in Opel models is considered to be an indication of its in-depth exploration of the Chinese market. However, for the most sensitive Opel domestic problem, the industry believes that the engine implantation can not open the door to Opel landing in China.

Insiders pointed out that the importance of Opel to GM is not only to prop up its European sales data, but also to transpose the technology of universal parent brands.

For Opel, a more accurate expression is a common "technology matrix." Although GM's parent company has three major brands: Buick, Chevrolet, and Cadillac, its most important technology source is the sub-brand Opel.

This also explains why the twists and turns of the Opel bid in 2009 ended with a general announcement of the termination of the sale of Opel. In 2009, General Motors, which was deeply in the midst of bankruptcy, considered selling Opel. At the end of 2009, with the help of financial support from the German banking industry, GM announced the termination of the sale plan that was almost reached.

It is noteworthy that in this acquisition, BAIC from China has proposed to “import 60,000 Opel vehicles to China in 2010 and 2011, and set up a factory in China in 2015, and plans to establish 400 Home Dealer Network and, before 2015, invested a total of US$2.25 billion in Opel China to achieve sales of 485,000 vehicles in China in the bidding report, but this program has not become the first choice due to the conditions involved in the introduction of technology.

It is reported that in the acquisition intention agreement signed by GM and MAGNA Group of Canada, “Opel Automotive’s complete ban on sales in China and the United States market in the future” is an important cooperation prerequisite.

Obviously, GM is not willing to sell Opel, especially reluctant to sell to Chinese car companies.

It is unclear that in China, a variety of strategic transformation models of Shanghai GM are derived from the Opel platform, including the new Regal of the Opel Insignia prototype; Buick Hideyoshi inheriting the technical genes of the Opel Astra model and Chevrolet Aveo Europe and many other models .

According to sources, SAIC Motor and General Motors have previously signed exclusive agreements, including "General Motors' introduction of Opel technology in the Chinese market, Opel Motor Company could not set up a factory in China" and other related terms.

Therefore, Opel has been on the fringe in China for many years.

Senior figures in the domestic automotive industry stated that as early as the 1980s, the Guangzhou Peugeot JV was dissolved and Guangzhou Automobile once again recruited joint venture partners. Opel is the main partner of the cooperation. Accredited Japanese model Honda Accord won. Since then, Opel's landing in China has been completely closed.

After the technology platform originated from South Korea's Daewoo was repeatedly criticized by industry insiders, the Opel technology from Europe, which is more recognized in China, has become the main technology source of GM's strategic models in China. "Obviously, GM does not want to be exposed to the technology of most of its best-selling models from South Korea's Daewoo, but also does not want to be constrained by Opel's technology platform." The senior source said.

How deep is GM's reliance on Opel technology? How difficult is Opel's plan to land in China? And General China CEO Gan Wenwei also said on many occasions that Opel is a niche model in China and there is no production plan and it will maintain the existing import model.

SAIC did not respond to Opel’s China plan. The analysis pointed out that Opel's decision to enter China is not in the hands of SAIC Motor. As with GM, SAIC's attitude towards Opel's entry to China is also tangled under the premise of guaranteeing Shanghai GM's interests.

According to a report by the German Business Weekly at the end of last year, the president of Opel Motors Corp. Stalak stated that he will invest and establish factories in China, with a production volume of “30,000 to 40,000 vehicles”. This news was later denied by General China.

However, despite the tight domestic market, Opel's development of China, the world's largest auto market, is considered to be no longer subject to delay.

In February last year, General Motors chairman and CEO Extron visited the Chinese mainland for the first time, and he tailored the recovery plan for Opel, including an active development attitude in the Chinese market. Specifically, it will be introduced to the Chinese market within three years. 4 New cars and more.

GM’s Opel division announced on Wednesday that it had appointed former VW China executive, 55-year-old Alfred Rieck, as sales and marketing director. Luo Kaifu was responsible for expanding the business of Volkswagen’s Czech brand Skoda in China. He will begin his new position at Opel on July 1 this year. This is considered to be a signal that Opel will "carefully plan" the Chinese market.

Currently Opel has 22 distributors in China. Gan Wenwei said that the short-term goal is to maintain the Opel dealer network at around 50. In 2012, General Motors will strive to increase sales of the Opel brand in the Chinese market with an estimated increase of 10%, that is, from 5000 units in 2011 to 5,500 units. Gan Wenwei emphasized that "Opel sales will grow in sync with the market."

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