Now a division of Stellantis, and before that PSA, Opel was originally General Motors' main car-making subsidiary in continental Europe, headquartered in Germany. It was acquired by GM in 1931 and was for decades the American group's single largest division outside its domestic heartland. However, the business had been plagued by problems since the 1990s, and Opel is now the weakest by far of Germany's five heritage automobile brands, sitting behind Volkswagen, Mercedes, BMW and Audi. Repeated attempts to turn performance around have so far failed to deliver lasting results. The global economic crisis of 2008 came close to forcing GM to cut loose its ailing subsidiary altogether. With GM itself struggling on the brink of bankruptcy, Opel too faced collapse unless it received emergency funding. A draft deal was agreed to sell majority control of the business to Russian and Canadian investors. Yet after months of drawn-out negotiations, that plan was abruptly cancelled by GM's board just days before signature. Instead GM vowed to keep hold of the business, with the hope of achieving a slow but steady recovery. Years later, though, only a minimal turnaround had materialised. In a dramatic new turn of events, GM agreed in 2017 to pull out of Europe entirely, selling Opel and its British subsidiary Vauxhall to rival PSA of France for a rock-bottom €2.2bn. Michael Lohscheller, formerly Opel's CFO, was elevated to CEO in 2017 following completion of the sale. Sales have been in slow but steady decline for years, falling below 1m for the first time in 2018. Registrations in pandemic-impacted 2020 for Opel and Vauxhall combined plunged by over a third - the worst performance by any of the world's Top 50 brands - to 624k vehicles. The Corsa small car was its top-seller at 216k units. Other important models include the Astra sedan and Crossland X and Grandland X SUVs. In Germany, Opel's biggest market, registrations slid by almost a third to 142k units, placing Opel in 7th place behind its four German rivals, Ford and Skoda.
Capsule checked 22nd January 2021
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Historical profile information for Opel
Adbrands Weekly Update 4th Oct 2018: McCann scored a major victory in Europe with the recapture of the Opel car account, now owned by PSA Groupe. McCann and Opel had worked together for over 80 years until the business was shifted in 2011 to WPP's Scholz & Friends (and Y&R in some markets), supported by Omnicom's Heimat. McCann's win comes after a review which had been contested by both Publicis Groupe and Havas. The latter manages both Peugeot and Citroen, and had been considered the favourite to add Opel to its portfolio until being eliminated a few weeks ago. Heimat withdrew from the competition after the review was called.
Adbrands Weekly Update 16th Aug 2018: As had been widely anticipated, PSA Groupe called a pitch of global creative for newly acquired Opel, formerly GM Europe. That account is currently managed by WPP's Scholz & Friends and Y&R. It's unclear whether the review also extends to UK sister brand Vauxhall, managed by Mother and McCann. PSA's existing brands Peugeot, Citroen and DS are all handled globally by Havas.
Adbrands Weekly Update 23rd November 2017: PSA Groupe has consolidated media for its newly acquired Opel and Vauxhall car businesses with Mediacom, which won the Peugeot and Citroen accounts across Europe earlier this year. Carat had handled Opel and Vauxhall for more than a decade. Billings are estimated at around €300m.
Adbrands Weekly Update 28th Sep 2017: Tina Mueller, arguably the single most high-profile automobile marketer in Europe, is departing Opel following its acquisition by PSA Peugeot Citroen. She has accepted a position as CEO of pharmacy and beauty retailer Douglas.
Adbrands Weekly Update 3rd Aug 2017: A new auto giant is born. PSA Groupe of France completed the acquisition this week of GM Europe, adding the Opel and Vauxhall brands to its stable alongside Peugeot, Citroen and DS. "We are witnessing the birth of a true European champion today," said PSA CEO Carlos Tavares. "We will assist Opel and Vauxhall’s return to profitability and aim to set new industry benchmarks together. We will unleash the power of these iconic brands and the huge potential of its existing talents. Opel will remain German, Vauxhall will remain British." PSA leapfrogs Renault to become the undisputed #2 in the European car market with around 17% regional share. Volkswagen still leads the pack with over 23% of new registrations, while Renault has 10.5%.
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