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    What's next for Opel? The company is threatened with total marginalisation

    Germany fears for the future of its brand. Cuts, downsizing and growing concerns about the future of the company – this is the current picture of the Opel plants. According to experts, it may soon become a brand without much meaning.

    Four years ago, the brand was taken over by the French conglomerate PSA. And from that point on, Opel’s business has been increasingly curtailed. Some of the buildings at the Ruesselsheim headquarters have been sold, some production facilities have been closed, and more and more work is being outsourced to independent factories. Thousands of employees had to say goodbye to the company, although they were provided with generous severance packages. There are reports that there will be even more cuts, with a large number of plants to be relocated to Morocco.


    Although Opel’s profitability is improving, the mood at the company is getting worse. The brand is now part of the Stellantis group, which was formed earlier this year by the merger of PSA and FCA. This means that one corporation owns brands such as Peugeot, Citroën, DS, Fiat, Chrysler, Jeep, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Lancia and Dodge, as well as Opel. Does Opel still have any chance to develop and maintain its autonomy in such a large corporation?


    Opel is now to become, within the Stellantis group, “a sales division, possibly with its own design office”. This is a huge change for a brand with nearly 160 years of tradition. Not so long ago, the company had its designers, original ideas and its factories in several countries – not only in Germany but also in Great Britain, Austria and Poland.


    The trade unionists fear that the Ruesselsheim and Eisenach plants will eventually be separated from Opel and managed directly not by the brand, but by the Stellantis concern. Opel stresses that nothing is a foregone conclusion here. However, the IG Metall trade union is full of concern and warns of the “ultimate disintegration of the company”. Large protest actions have been announced at German Opel plants.


    The Stellantis concern is one of the largest automotive corporations in the world. It wants to build its position on all continents, but German unionists fear that further cost cuts will be needed to do so. And this will affect German workers, who will have to be increasingly “flexible”. Already, cars from the French brand DS are coming out of Opel plants. The unions are convinced that there will be more and more such situations.


    However, experts are not convinced that Opel has any chance of surviving as an autonomous brand at all. For a quarter of a century, Opel has been steadily losing market share and its cars do not stand out technically from the competition and have little chance of conquering the market. Experts predict that in the coming years the company may have at most a few per cent shares in the European market.


    And in Germany, the company’s situation is not the best. In 1997, more than 16 per cent of all new vehicles registered in this country bore the Opel label. In 2020, it was only 5 per cent.


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