By on December 18, 2008

The fate of GM’s dead brands walking generates rumor and hearsay like few other topics. GM is unraveling into a buyers market, and secret talks are typically denied within hours of their leaking. Ironically, one detail that rumors seem to have in common is the proliferation of Opels in the United States. Thus far Saturn has been the defacto donor brand for American Opels, but Motor Trend now claims it “makes sense” for Buick to cover Opel with brand familiarity.

The point of the exercise? Rescue the DOA PBG (Pontiac-Buick-GMC) sales channel. Which means there’s a “huge caveat:” only with a bailout can GM turn PBG into a “middle-priced channel consisting of Opel-based Buicks, a small fleet of sporty and affordable Pontiacs, and more crossovers for GMC.” You know, instead of whatever it is right now. What they mean though, is that if you like the looks of that Opel Insignia, and you want to buy a slightly cornier Buick version someday you should get on the horn with your elected representatives now.

But would Buick really make a better Opel-peddler than Saturn? After all, even MT admits that “Saturn’s 400 dealers are considered the best franchises in the corporation.” Or is this a bailout for every purse and purpose, with Opel’s Euro confections as bait? Either way, by the time GM figures out what label to sell its European offerings under, Ford’s Euro-invasion will have already begun. Oh yeah, and the bailout isn’t a sure thing anymore either.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

44 Comments on “Wild-Ass Rumor Of The Day: I Got It! What If Buick Sells Opels?...”


  • avatar
    Verbal

    Bring back the Manta!

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    In short this is a dumb idea. There is a significant cultural difference between your typical Buick/Pontiac/GMC dealership versus that what you currently find at a Saturn dealer. Second, Buick’s customer base isn’t what I’d call Euro-oriented. It’s too big of jump to make. It would be better to fold Buick into Caddy.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    Opels in Buick dealerships again? FWIW, Insignia has been rebadged as a Buick Regal for the Chinese market.

  • avatar
    akear

    Yet another awful idea from GM. No wonder they are in such trouble.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    They are trying to justify the existence of the sales channel. I’m not inclined to argue, for as a taxpayer, I’m not excited about paying billions of tax dollars to shut down something that GM could have paid for itself with the money that it “invested” in Hummer or Fiat. Thanks, Rick!

  • avatar
    armadamaster

    But c’mon, the “Oldsmobiling” of Buick since 2005 has been working so great…right?

    I thought this was Saturn’s latest lease on life?

  • avatar
    tom

    Nice “Gedankenexperiment”…But it’s all smoke and mirrors in order to give the impression as if GM actually has a future.

  • avatar
    MrDot

    Buick has a customer base?

  • avatar
    corsa

    I like the Opels, but Saturn only seems to bring over the watered-down versions. And even if they did bring the hot OPC versions, having a Saturn badge on them just doesn’t do it for me.

    My thoughts have always been that Saturn dealerships should become Saturn/Opel dealerships. They should then focus the Saturn brand toward the “green” side of the cars, and the Opel brand toward the performance side.

    So in other words, badge the hybrids and stuff as Saturns, and badge the performance versions as Opels.

    I wouldn’t mind driving an Opel Corsa OPC around, but the thought of driving a Saturn Corsa (and probably a bland base-model at that) leaves me cold.

  • avatar
    Terry

    “Bring back the Manta!”
    Ahh..the fond memories of my ’72 Fireglow red Manta 1900 Rallye with the flat black hood…

  • avatar
    MX5bob

    I knew I should have kept my ’61 Car-a-van.

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    Verbal and Terry have it…

    Ahh yess. A 1900 Manta Rallye. With Phoenix Stahflex 3011s.

    Memmmries…

  • avatar
    corsa

    My first car was a 1973 Opel GT with the 1900. Unfortunately, an automatic, but eventually when my brother got it, he swapped in a 4-speed.

    Loved that car!

  • avatar
    slartybarfast

    The Manta, could it be the one good small GM car ?

  • avatar
    WaftableTorque

    I personally love Buicks. I love them so much I have two Lexus sedans…because they make a better Buick than Buick does.

    The last Buick I tried was a Terraza, I didn’t realize GM still built crap.

    This Opel I find way too young and sporty. I’d rather they bring the Chinese Park Avenue and Lacrosse over. At least they have the Enclave, which I’d pick over any SUV from the pursuers of perfection.

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    The only downside was the 4 speed was like rowing a frickin’ boat.

    1-2 shift had you going from having your knuckles in the dash to having your right elbow touching the girl in the back seat.

    Maybe it *was* a design feature. Hmmmm

  • avatar
    bjcpdx

    Rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

  • avatar
    billc83

    DAMN IT ALL! OK, this is just a WAR, and I shouldn’t be blowing so much smoke, but come on now. If Buick had been killed instead of Oldsmobile, Olds would be a perfect candidate for this. The brand was already setting itself up as an near-luxury import fighter; selling Opels could be a natural evolution.

    It looks like they’re really reaching for a Cadillac – Buick – Chevrolet GM reincarnation. Buick has next to no brand equity*. Of GM’s mistakes in the last decade, and there have been quite a few, killing Oldsmobile and not Buick is up there, in my mind.

    *Except in the Chinese market.

  • avatar

    My thoughts have always been that Saturn dealerships should become Saturn/Opel dealerships. They should then focus the Saturn brand toward the “green” side of the cars, and the Opel brand toward the performance side.

    Interesting idea, but considering that many “green” folks treat it as a religion do you think they’ll patronize a dealer that sells evil performance cars? Will they consider the showroom floor desecrated by something with even less practical use than an SUV? Toy stores do sell the dread SUV but they haven’t sold a sports car since the MR2.

    It’s interesting that at least one part of the original Saturn business model still works: their dealers. Remember, one of the ways Saturn was going to help GM get customers back was that their dealers were going to be different, none of the games or tricks that made car salesmen the least trusted profession in America. No haggle, no bullshit.

    The problem with that is that it attracted a core customer base that were looking for an appliance, and the Corolla’s a better appliance.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Dumb.

    You cannot take an old fogey division and turn it into a VW/Acura competitor. It didn’t work when they tried it with Olds and it’s not going to work now. If they want to sell Opels in North America, they have Saturn. It has–more or less–the demographics to do it. Buick? Even Pontiac would be a better choice.

    Motor Trend is obviously trolling for controversy (and page views) with this one.

    This had better be a W.A.R., because if GM does this, it cements the theory that a) Mark La Neve is a complete idiot and b) Rick Wagoner is paying no attention whatsoever to how his company is actually doing.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    The Manta, could it be the one good small GM car ?

    Well, there’s the 1982+ Chevy Nova. Or the Pontiac Vibe.

  • avatar
    corsa

    Interesting idea, but considering that many “green” folks treat it as a religion do you think they’ll patronize a dealer that sells evil performance cars? Will they consider the showroom floor desecrated by something with even less practical use than an SUV? Toy stores do sell the dread SUV but they haven’t sold a sports car since the MR2.

    A valid point. But I think they could still work together. After all, the performance Opels aren’t V8 muscle cars like, say, the Holdens are. They still pack small turbo-charged 4-cylinders.

    They could even carry the same cars, just the basic and more economical versions could be badged Saturns, while the sportier versions could be badged Opels. That might bring young people who are looking for sporty cars into the showroom with an exciting new brand like Opel, since the Saturn brand has a certain “aura” (no pun intended!) around it.

    So the Opel brand would almost become what the current Saturn Redline is.

    Hmm, maybe you could even slip diesels in there. Sell the basic and hybrid versions as the Saturn, and the turbocharged and diesel versions as Opels. The Saturn Astra is basic and thrifty, the Opel Astra is sportier and more upscale.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    Cadillac is the only brand that should survive. It’s the only one they could attach a commitment to quality and resale value with any credibility.

    Trucks marketed under Chevy or GMC, not both.

    Corvette as a performance CAR and division, much like Cosworth or AMG or BMW M. You could by Corvette tuned Cadillacs.

    Everything else is junked.

    The Volt should be spun off into an independent company. No-one trusts GM as “green”, in fact those buyers see GM as the environmental anti-christ (aside from Exxon). They need to break that association. Volt LLC could sell technology to other companies too.

    Of course, it requires a Ch11 to break the dealers as I understand it.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    psarhjinian : The Manta, could it be the one good small GM car ?

    Um, no. I traded my 67 383 Barracuda for a 71 Opel Sport Coupe, the Manta’s same-but-the-name predecessor, when gas went up to 42.9 cents for premium. Well, we had a long commute at the time.

    I thought I’d get German craftsmanship, but I got a German Vega. It handled very well after I replaced the factory bias tires with Michelins. But the shift lever buzzed like crazy at any speed over 45 mph, and the weird two-barrel carb insured that in a parking lot nothing would happen until half-throttle, then it would squirt ahead. The carpet started coming out at the edges the first week. That’s just the stuff I can remember now after too many years. I traded it for a 72 Celica that was way better in every respect except handling.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    God, I feel like I am stuck in a carnival ride and the same things keep happening over, and over again. Please make them stop.

  • avatar
    Droid800

    You guys are just getting this idea now? What took so long?

    Despite what many of you think, this is a great idea. The plans have already been made and were already in motion for US production of future Opel models for Saturn; GM is essentially transferring those programs to Buick now that Saturn has no future and Buick needs to be the middle-ground between Chevy and Cadillac.

    Rebadge Opels is better than barely rebadge Chevrolets any day.

  • avatar
    C. Alan

    Oh yes, please bring back the Manta. In 1989, I had a ’74 Manta Ralley, complete with the yellow body, and black ralley stripes and hood. I replaced the carb with a holley two barrel, and the ignition system with a mallory unit. That car got me through college in style. If Opel came back to the states, I would seriously consider replacing my bore-olla with one.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Why should something which has never worked before suddenly work now? Buick-Opel, Buick-Opel-Isuzu, Cadillac Catera and now the Saturn Astra were all attempts to ‘mericanize Opels and sell them through existing channels. Everyone of these projects was a failure. The Australian Pontiacs rounds 1 and 2 similarly fell flat.

    BTW, over a dozen years ago I suggested that GM combine Saturn and Saab into one dealership channel. Saab at the time had some interesting products but an absolutely horrible dealer network while Saturn had almost the opposite problem with great dealers but a ho-hum product line. Internal GM inertia kept this an any number of other good ideas from ever happening.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    BTW, over a dozen years ago I suggested that GM combine Saturn and Saab into one dealership channel. Saab at the time had some interesting products but an absolutely horrible dealer network while Saturn had almost the opposite problem with great dealers but a ho-hum product line. Internal GM inertia kept this an any number of other good ideas from ever happening.

    They do exactly this in Canada. It’s still a flop.

  • avatar
    MarkT

    My wife’s first new car was a Buick Opel Izuzu. 2 door, 4 speed manual. Harsh ride brutal seats stayed hot in summer and cold in winter.

  • avatar
    50merc

    WaftableTorque: “This Opel I find way too young and sporty. I’d rather they bring the Chinese Park Avenue and Lacrosse over.”

    Paging Mr. Buickman! Paging Mr. Buickman! We need an expert’s opinion: would China’s Park Avenue and/or LaCrosse be good for Buick sales in the US?

  • avatar
    Kman

    With GM’s brands being so weak here in North America, why not bring Opels over and badge them… Opel?

    We’re about to kill off and restructure all the brands anyway [I believe Ch. 11 is the only, the best and the most logical way out of this], so we keep Cadillac, Chevrolet… and introduce Opel. All existing Saturn, Pontiac or Buick dealerships can choose to become one of the remaining brands or take on Opel.

    I’d love to see Opels here. Oh, and DON’T CHANGE THEM or “ADAPT THEM TO THE NORTH AMERICAN MARKET”!!!

  • avatar
    Terry

    # C. Alan :
    December 18th, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    “Oh yes, please bring back the Manta. In 1989, I had a ‘74 Manta Ralley, complete with the yellow body, and black ralley stripes and hood. I replaced the carb with a holley two barrel, and the ignition system with a mallory unit.”

    Wow! I did a Weber carb and Delta Mark 10 ignition system to my ’72 Manta Rallye, along with an Ansa exhaust, Michelin XVS tires, and Bilstein shocks. Used to beat the BMW 2002s at the autocrosses, great all-around car. The ARA aftermarket A/C I installed actually worked.
    2 interesting(to me)mechanical points: 1) the engine was a “cam-in-head” design, not an overhead cam or overhead valves. The cam slid into the head and operated rocker arms via hydraulic lifters and very short pushrods. Good revving, and a short timing chain were 2 advantages.
    2) The 4-speed transmission in the Opel was also used in the Chevrolet Vega–AS A 3-speed with a gearset removed!!!

  • avatar
    brush

    50merc :
    “Paging Mr. Buickman! Paging Mr. Buickman! We need an expert’s opinion: would China’s Park Avenue and/or LaCrosse be good for Buick sales in the US?”

    Buick Park Avenue = Massaged Holden Caprice = stretched G8. Wouldn’t that conflict with Pontiac? or is that the definition of badge engineering ? And would a large, V8 luxury car full of the mod cons, that can go like a cut cat, put the wind up Cadillac?

  • avatar
    mcs

    GM is totally clueless about marketing and branding. If they owned the Yugo brand, I suspect they’d be trying to figure out why it wasn’t selling and how to bring it back. Oh, let’s re-badge Opels and sell them as Yugos. That’ll work. How about renaming the Insignia the Yugo Vega? Gee, why isn’t it selling. It’s a great car…

    The best way to sell Opels in the US is to sell them as Opels – not Buicks or Saturns. GM needs to do their best to obfuscate the GM connection. Create an Opel USA division for Opel and sell it as a German car with “transplant” factories. Get rid of all GM logos from the cars and the parts. No other GM brands allowed at the showroom. Finally, make sure the cars are good – don’t destroy Opels image like the other brands.

  • avatar
    Diewaldo

    This whole nameplate travesty that GM is pulling off is totally nonsense.

    Opel and Chevrolet (Daewoo) are the only ones that bring considerable volume to the table and are known to a bigger audience both in- and outside of the US.

    Everything else should be shoved.

  • avatar
    threeer

    I tend to believe that Americans don’t want Opels…at least not the variants we’ve been given so far. The Astra is a great car, but GM brings over the least attractive version and expects it to be competitive…and then barely advertises it. I had high hopes for this, as I grew up watching my father drive nothing but Opels (almost all one version or another of the Rekord…loved our ’71 with the wind-up sunroof!). But the price/performance ratio of the new Astra leaves me wanting. Could Opels do well here in the States? Perhaps only with a significantly stronger (and more distinctive) line-up and the proper backing. Simply rebadging them and dropping them into a Saturn dealership, which is barely getting any foot traffic to begin with, is a poor way of bringing some affordable European fun to the American market.

    Yeah…a hot rod version of the Corsa would be pretty cool…hehehehehe…

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    @Kman: GM changed the 2009 Astra’s clock display from a 24hr to a 12hr, but not the front console cupholder. There are at least a few little touches that ought/have to get changed due to cultural peculiarities.

    Related: a NY Times blog entry suggested us in the States standardizing on European crash/safety and emission standards to help save Ford, GM, and other automakers some money with compliance, and perhaps get some nifty low-volume cars.

  • avatar
    akear

    I think it is safe to say now Opels don’t sell well in the US.

    Astra 2008 – 11,200

  • avatar
    forditude

    It cannot be stressed enough of how terrible an idea this is. GM needs to stick with only Cadillac and Chevrolet, not rebadge more cars to sell in the non-existent ‘near-luxury’ segment. GM can’t sell the cars already collecting dust on dealer lots, and don’t have the time it takes to establish and position a new brand, nor the finances to market it. Let them kill or sell Buick, Pontiac, Saturn, Saab, and Hummer and pare their bloated dealer network so they can at least try to remain a viable entity.

  • avatar
    corsa

    I think it is safe to say now Opels don’t sell well in the US.

    Astra 2008 – 11,200

    I think there are a couple of reasons why.

    1) They only brought over the boring, base-model versions. They should have also brought over the performance versions and made the Redlines (if they kept the Saturn badge at all, which leads me to…)

    2) I think because they are Saturns, they failed. Who thinks of “excitement” when they think of Saturn? In Europe, the Astra line competes against the Golf/GTI line, and even the MINI. But the Saturn version we got? Who in their right mind, if they were already looking at the VW GTI and the MINI Cooper S, would even think to see what the Saturn dealer has? Even if they did have a Redline version?

    That’s why I say, they should bring Opels over, as Opels, and turn all the Saturn dealers into Saturn AND Opel dealers. They have a great dealer infrastructure there, and a new brand name like Opel (and bring the performance versions over so they have something to cross-shop with the GTI and MINI) might bring some more people in.

    Personally, it wouldn’t bother me if they ONLY brought over the performance versions, sold them as Opels, and killed the Saturns altogether… but I suppose if they have to sell hybrids and base models and such, and really wanted to keep the Saturn badge, they could.

    Or, just bring all the Opels over, as Opels, unchanged, and sell the full line. Change all Saturn dealers to Opel dealers. Kill the Saturn brand. It’s boring.

  • avatar
    nikita

    Am I the only one here old enough to remember the Opel Kadett of the 1960′s sold at Buick dealers? It was the Aveo of its day. Car and Driver did the photo shoot for its road test in a junkyard.

  • avatar
    Diewaldo

    The 60′s Kadett was a nice car. But it was never aimed at the US market. It was an entry class car competing with the VW Beetle in Europe and nothing else.

  • avatar
    BMW325I

    That would be a disgrace to opel. That would associate Opel’s cars to people that are at their last stage before death.

    I really want Opel to break away and sell in the US as a European brand.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Authors

  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • J & J Sutherland, Canada
  • Tycho de Feyter, China
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India