We recently received an email from one of you, our readers, on behalf of all Opel fans in the country, asking that we cover more news of the all-new, and good looking, Opel Astra.
It’s not that we’ve been ignoring developments on the Opel front, it’s just that, well, here in sunny SA there haven’t been any. When we spoke with the new president and MD of General Motors South Africa (GMSA), Edgar Lourencon, towards the end of last year, he said that the costs of bringing the new Astra range to our market are simply too high at this point in time.
But being unable to compete due to high production costs is only part of the Opel story. Since the financial crisis began towards the end of 2008, Opel AG has been on a rocky road and was on the brink of being sold off by General Motors, the summary of which you can
March 4, 2009 – GM floats the idea of re-launching Opel as an independent company. This would entail the slashing of 3,500 jobs.
April 28, 2009 – The Canadian-Austrian auto parts maker Magna presents outlines of an offer for Opel.
May 20, 2009 – GM announces it has received three offers for Opel. The bidders are Magna, Fiat and RHJ International.
May 30, 2009 – Germany agrees a deal with Magna, GM and the US government to save Opel from the bankruptcy of its US parent.
June 11, 2009 – Germany announces that it is still in talks with other potential investors.
July 20, 2009 – GM receives takeover offers for Opel from Magna, RHJ and Chinese carmaker BAIC.
July 28, 2009 – Magna offers to increase the upfront capital it would invest in Opel.
August 11, 2009 – German Chancellor Angela Merkel announces she is ready to intervene personally in support of Magna’s bid.
August 19, 2009 – The German government says that if GM chooses Magna as Opel’s buyer, it could provide 4.5 billion euros in state aid. It could, it claims, raise the money without the help of other European governments.
September 10, 2009 – It is announced that GM has chosen Magna as the buyer. German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomes the news. After 90 years of GM ownership, Opel prepares itself for the hand over.
November 3, 2009 – GM goes back on its decision to sell its European unit to Magna and its financial partner Sberbank. As grounds for the decision, GM cited an improving business environment and the importance of its European unit to the company’s revamped global strategy.
But as the headline suggests, what’s happening with the brand in South Africa and what do the plans and changes in Europe mean for us locally? We contacted GMSA’s product communications manager, Des Fenner, to share your sentiments and ours, around the new Astra and the future of Opel SA in general. Here is what he had to say:
“We at GMSA also think that the New Astra is the ‘real deal’. It is a great product that has done extremely well since it was introduced in Europe. We also know, understand and appreciate the loyal Opel followers that we have in the SA market. We still continue to supply the older version of the Astra into the market as well as the new Opel Corsa.
Yes, we have been forced to cut down on our range available to the local market and this has been as a direct result of poor economics. We need to be able to bring this great Opel product to market, at competitive prices. Unfortunately, it does not make good business sense to bring a particular product into a specific segment of the market and having to sell it at a premium price, where no loyal consumer can afford to purchase it. High source cost and exchange rates have been our biggest enemy in this area.
The good news is that GMSA is working closely with the new Opel management team in Europe, to work through the obstacles, to try and bring more great Opel products to the SA market. This process is not as easy as it may sound, but we continue to try our utmost best to satisfy you and all of those other loyal GMSA and Opel fans out there!”
So unfortunately it seems to be a case of ‘hurry up and wait’. On the plus side, the Opel Corsa still looks fresh and we hear the OPC is a flier. We know our Astra is now a generation behind that of Europe, but like most cars, it will still look good until the new model arrives and only then will be perceived as old.
Wouldn’t it be nice if the new Astra’s delay resulted in a limited production run of a Superboss inspired Astra GTC OPC, exclusive to South Africa. After all, Europe has the Nürburgring Edition.
Send us your comments on the current Astra – is it showing its age or could it survive another year in the market place? Are you an Opel fanatic and if so, how long would you wait for new models to arrive before considering a switch to a new car with another manufacturer?