PSA’s plan of action for Opel/Vauxhall: electrification, shared platforms, global R&D center in Germany

  • 14-Nov-2017 12:47 EST
OPel11-17 PSA Opel Automobile CEO Michael Lohscheller.jpg

CEO of Opel Automobile Michael Lohscheller, says of PSA and Opel/Vauxhall: "Combining strengths will unleash annual synergies (image: PSA).

One hundred days after France's PSA group bought GM’s Opel/Vauxhall European operations, the first and crucial detailed plan of action and its effects for the combined businesses was revealed at Opel’s Rüsselsheim HQ.

It includes all Opel/Vauxhall passenger-car lines being electrified by 2024 and a rapid switch to the use of PSA flexible architectures in the same timeframe; a big cut in the number of Opel/Vauxhall platforms and establishment of a Groupe PSA R&D center in Germany.

A financial aim for Opel/Vauxhall is a return to profitability by 2020. As for its factories, cautious phrasing is used: the “intention” is to maintain and modernize all plants and to “refrain” from forced layoffs.

Opel/Vauxhall already makes use of PSA platforms, including that of the new Grandland X; the crossover sits on Peugeot 3008 underpinnings and powertrain, but clad by an Opel-designed bodyshell. Recent experience of the Grandland by this AE Editor showed it to be average in most respects—practical and functional but, despite its Gallic DNA heart and skeleton, possessing no particularly standout features except perhaps its connectivity. PSA’s message might be: could do better.

Interestingly, Opel and Vauxhall (the latter brand a UK business but with its design and technology centered in Germany with Opel) could also indirectly gain some kudos via the family connection to PSA’s premium-targeted DS brand; its new DS7 is aimed very much at image enhancement. DS Director General Yves Bonnefont told Automotive Engineering that it may take a while, but he is confident that DS models will reach the relatively rarefied premium sector populated by the likes of Mercedes-Benz and Lexus.

A new Pace

The strategic plan – called “Pace!” – was stated by Michael Lohscheller, CEO of Opel Automobile, to be restoration of financial fundamentals and enhancement of sustainable competitiveness and growth: “Combining strengths will unleash annual synergies on Groupe PSA level of 1.1 billion euros by 2020 and 1.7 billion euros by 2026. All actions will contribute to a lower financial break-even point for Opel/Vauxhall of 800,000 vehicles, creating a profitable business model whatever the headwinds may be.”

Bold words in a volatile world, perhaps, but he went on to say that with full access to Groupe PSA technologies, Opel/Vauxhall will become a European low-CO2 leader. All its vehicle lines will be electrified via battery or in plug-in hybrid configuration, but “alongside efficient internal combustion engines." The Grandland X will be available as a PHEV and there will be a pure EV version of the next generation Corsa. Some of this this may be seen as catch-up, but at least it is being done.

Opel also aims to reduce vehicle cost per unit by 700 euros by 2020, with overall efficiencies increased by reducing complexity across all functions. And optimizing R&D will be a significant part of this as the company continues “seizing synergies.”

The two Groupe PSA platforms—CMP and EMP2—will be built in all Opel/Vauxhall plants. An SUV using the EMP2 architecture already is planned for 2019 production in Eisenach, Germany and a D-segment vehicle will be built at Rüsselsheim in Germany.

There also will be a shift from GM to Groupe PSA engines and transmissions.

Although the French connection will be very strong, all new Opel/Vauxhall vehicles will be engineered in Rüsselsheim, which will become a global competence center for the whole Groupe PSA, with salient R&D areas of focus being fuel cells, some automated-driving technologies and driver-assistance systems. This would further guarantee German engineering quality and affordable innovations, stressed Lohscheller.

He revealed that the number of platforms Opel/Vauxhall uses for passenger cars will be slashed from nine to two by 2024 and powertrain families optimized from 10 to four: “Aligning architecture and powertrain families will substantially reduce development and production complexity, thus allowing scale effects and synergies, contributing to overall profitability.”

Including all body styles, Opel/Vauxhall plans to launch nine new models by 2020, with Opel entering more than 20 new export markets by 2022, followed by exploration of further global opportunities.

The U.S., meanwhile, is receiving considerable attention. Groupe PSA North America Inc., created in 2017, saw the launch in Seattle of Free2Move, a smartphone-based mobility-aggregation platform. It provides users in the city with the ability to compare location, characteristics and operation costs of available transport options. The service can schedule or immediately access the transportation of a customer’s choice for a period ranging from a few minutes to several days. Free2Move is already available in seven European countries.

The PSA and GM Europe link-up will make the new company the second-largest automaker in Europe after the VW Group.

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