Vaux­halls and Opels are now Peu­geots and Citroens

PSA buys out GM’s loss-mak­ing Euro­pean arm, adding yet an­other main­stream brand to its sta­ble

Top Gear (UK) - - THE TEN -

PSA has bought the Opel and Vaux­hall brands, their whole range of cars, and a group of plants all across Europe that build cars and pow­er­trains. For that it paid about £1.1bn. To­gether with bank BNP Paribas, it also bought Opel’s bank, which lends peo­ple money to buy and lease the cars. That part of the deal earned GM an­other £800m.

The deal is all about the benefts of be­ing big­ger. Com­bined cur­rent sales of Opel and Vaux­hall to Peu­geot and Citroen and DS make the new en­tity the num­ber two car con­glom­er­ate in Europe, be­hind only the multi-brand VW Group. So GM in Detroit has found a way to be rid of its Euro­pean arm, which has lost money for 15 years.

The logic is this: all the group’s cars will go onto a com­bined set of plat­forms and pow­er­trains. This spreads the enor­mous costs of R&D and pro­duc­tion tool­ing across more vehicles. It also re­duces pur­chas­ing costs per ve­hi­cle, be­cause the new big­ger en­tity would be buy­ing parts in big­ger numbers and could ne­go­ti­ate lower prices.

Like the VW Group, the in­di­vid­ual brands put on their own skins and in­te­ri­ors and tun­ing and specs, and sell them through sep­a­rate deal­ers. But PSA and GM are al­ready do­ing much of that. At Geneva, Vaux­hall and Opel launched the Cross­land X. This is a small but roomy fam­ily cross­over that shares a plat­form, pow­er­trains and pro­duc­tion line with the next Citroen C3 Pi­casso. Later this year there will be the Grand­land X, which is a re­bod­ied Peu­geot 3008. These co-op­er­a­tions were set up four years ago when the com­pa­nies were sep­a­rate.

PSA CEO Car­los Tavares is talk­ing about sav­ings by bring­ing ex­per­tise into Vaux­hall and Opel fac­to­ries. He points out that af­ter he joined PSA, its breakeven point dropped by 1 mil­lion cars a year. It was, to be fair, an amaz­ing turnaround. Prob­lem is, Vaux­hall’s Bri­tish Ellesmere Port plant and Opel’s Rüs­selsheim oper­a­tion are al­ready very ef­cient. So big sav­ings will come only af­ter those plants start build­ing cars on com­mon Peu­geotCitroen-DS-Opel-Vaux­hall plat­forms.

The other prob­lem is, hav­ing fnally man­aged to put some space be­tween Peu­geot and Citroen, can Tavares fnd room in peo­ple’s minds for Opel and Vaux­hall too? Part of it, he says, is about the per­ceived na­tion­al­ity of the brands. “Some buy­ers don’t want a French car,” he said. “Some want a Ger­man car, just as some want an Asian car. Peo­ple buy cars from a brand not a group.”

And what of GM? Well, it’s al­most uni­ver­sally held that for a maker to prove it­self ca­pa­ble of mak­ing good cars – as op­posed to pick­ups and big SUVs – it has to go toe-to-toe with Europe’s best, in Europe. We fear the days of lazy Detroit crap­boxes, the Nineties Chevy Mal­ibus and Oldsmo­bile Achievas that drove GM to bankruptcy, might fnd a new echo. By pulling out of Europe, GM paints it­self as a can’t-do com­pany

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