Wil­liams Hunt to drive Opel dis­tri­bu­tion in SA

The Star Early Edition - - BUSINESS REPORT - Roy Cokayne

OPEL, the Ger­man ve­hi­cle brand owned by Gen­eral Mo­tors (GM) that is in the process of be­ing sold to the French-based PSA Group, has con­firmed its com­mit­ment to South Africa by ap­point­ing the Wil­liams Hunt group, part of the Uni­trans group, as the ded­i­cated dis­trib­u­tor of the brand in the coun­try.

The ap­point­ment will be ef­fec­tive from Jan­uary 1 next year.

The an­nounce­ment fol­lowed the de­ci­sion an­nounced by GM last month to dis­in­vest from South African shores and stop man­u­fac­tur­ing and sales of Chevro­let ve­hi­cles in the coun­try.

In terms of GM’s dis­in­vest­ment plan, Ja­pan-based Isuzu Mo­tors, through a newly es­tab­lished com­pany, Isuzu Mo­tors South Africa, will ac­quire GM’s light com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­tur­ing oper­a­tions in Struan­dale, Port El­iz­a­beth, and con­tinue man­u­fac­tur­ing its Isuzu KB and medium-com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles and heavy-duty trucks in South Africa.

GM’s 132 deal­ers were to be re­duced to about 90 Isuzu deal­ers in the re­struc­tur­ing.

GM sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa pres­i­dent and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Ian Ni­cholls said last month at the dis­in­vest­ment an­nounce­ment that GM would work with PSA, the man­u­fac­turer of Peu­geot and Citroen, to de­velop a future strat­egy for the Opel brand in South Africa.

Opel di­rec­tor of in­ter­na­tional sales Bill Mott said the PSA deal was ex­pected to be fi­nalised in the sec­ond half of this year.

He said Opel did not see any di­rect re­la­tion­ship with the PSA group in South Africa and its re­la­tion­ship would be with the Wil­liams Hunt group, which would rep­re­sent the brand in the coun­try in terms of the plan and strat­egy de­vel­oped for South Africa.

He said the Wil­liams Hunt group had been a key Opel part­ner in South Africa for many years and was to­day re­spon­si­ble for about 20 per­cent of its na­tional sales vol­umes.

Mott said Wil­liams Hunt would es­tab­lish 35 deal­er­ships across the coun­try to dis­trib­ute and ser­vice Opel ve­hi­cles.

“Un­der our new struc­ture, Opel own­ers can ex­pect the same qual­ity of af­ter-sales care and there will be no change to ex­ist­ing war­ranties and ser­vice plans,” he added.

Roy Pep­per, the di­vi­sional chief ex­ec­u­tive of Wil­liams Hunt, said the group would not con­trol all 35 deal­ers, but would fran­chise some to deal­ers within the ex­ist­ing GM dealer net­work.

Mott said this was an ex­tremely ex­cit­ing year for Opel, with its huge model of­fen­sive in full swing, which would re­sult in seven new mod­els be­ing launched this year alone – the most new cars it had brought to mar­ket in a sin­gle year in its his­tory.

He said Opel would be launch­ing a to­tal of 29 new mod­els in the time frame from last year to 2020.

Among the seven new­com­ers launched this year was the new Cross­land X, a sub-com­pact sport util­ity ve­hi­cle that would be launched in South Africa at the end of this year, and the Grace­land X next year.

Ni­cholls said Opel had been sell­ing cars in South Africa since the 1930s, and sales of the brand had grown 9.6 per­cent over the past two years while the mar­ket had de­creased by more than 15 per­cent.

PHOTO: REUTERS

GM last month an­nounced it was leav­ing South Africa.

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