With the shock news that GM has agreed to sell its European arm to the PSA (Peugeot-Citroen) group, there has been a lot of doom and gloom about the future of the two companies especially Vauxhall. The news outlets have already started to mention job fears before Peugeot had the chance to set out its intentions, but you really have to ask yourself is this really the worst thing that could have happened for two brands that consistently fail to make any profit?
- First things first, General Motors do not understand foreign markets and they’re finally realising it. Vauxhall-Opel isn’t the only casualty and, to be frank, they’ve gotten out of the relationship lightly, they have a future. Holden of Australia weren’t so lucky. With all manufacturing ending in October 2017, the next generation of Holdens will just be rebadged American built cars. Then you have to look at what happened with Saab being sold in a horrendously bad deal 6 years ago to a pipe dreamer who struggled to get anything off the ground. Whichever way you look at it, Vauxhall and Opel needed to make a case for themselves and fast under GM leadership. General Motors aren’t even exclusively cutting jobs and plants on foreign soil either as at a similar time to news of the sale of Opel-Vauxhall it was announced 1100 jobs are going to be cut at its Lansing plant in GM’s home state of Michigan of all places. It was only a matter of time before Vauxhall, then Opel, would have come under the axe. Ellesmere port was only just saved 4 years ago when GM made it fight competition from Germany and Poland to get the contract for the new Astra.
- Theres even already chemistry between the manufacturers. Opel-Vauxhall have already come to the end of a joint venture, meaning they already have a relationship and Peugeot-Citroen must have seen value in the company from this project to suddenly offer a considerable amount of money to what must be considered a very risky investment. This also shows they can already work with each other. In fact, it wouldnt be that surprising if Vauxhall and Opel pushed GM to make the sale.
Still looks like an Opel/Vauxhall, but much of it already isn’t
- Peugeot-Citroen would be foolish to close down any UK manufacturing operation such as Ellesmere Port until at least they see how Brexit pans out. If it is in fact a ‘Hard Brexit’, then tariffs of French cars could become a serious problem for PSA. It’s even conceivable to think that Peugeot-Citroen in such a situation could return to the Ryton/Slough era and build their own cars over here again, potentially piggy backing from Vauxhalls existing factories in Cheshire and Bedfordshire.
- All eyes are already on Peugeot, they faced backlash not too long ago after the end of 206 production at Ryton. If they killed off Vauxhall, it would almost definitely effect sales of their own models in one of the biggest new car markets in Europe, social media has made protesting all the more visible than back in 2006.
- Vauxhall-Opel may share a price point with both Citroen and Peugeot but stereotypically its loyal customers are very different. Vauxhall owners are seen to be more conservative in nature and value dependability more than flair. I think many of the Vauxhall owners I have come across would never buy into an Astra that was obviously a Peugeot 308 in drag (no matter how good a 308 may be). Platform sharing is a given but I believe Opel-Vauxhall will have more freedom than Citroen in the mechanical department.
- PSA now have the opportunity to overtake Volkswagen (who are still having to fight ‘Diesel-gate’). They can’t do that if they run either Opel or Vauxhall into the ground: now is the time to build a European automotive empire.
- Both companies have built some great cars, and theres no reason they can’t do that again in the future. The 3008 has just won European car of the year and the new Insignia Sport Tourer looks a cracker .But still, just imagine what the range would have been like if this happened 25 years ago!
The future isn’t certain by any means, but I think it’s brighter than Twitter would have you beleive.