The Truth About Cars » Opel http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 20 Dec 2014 16:36:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Opel http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com OEMs Suspend Vehicle Sales In Russia Amid Volatile Currency Situation http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/oems-suspend-vehicle-sales-in-russia-amid-volatile-currency-swings/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/oems-suspend-vehicle-sales-in-russia-amid-volatile-currency-swings/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 19:02:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=962674 With the Russian ruble experiencing a near collapse in value, multiple OEMs have decided to suspend sales of its vehicles in Russia. According to a statement sent to Just-Auto, GM’s Russian arm said “In view of the volatility of [the] rouble exchange rate and with the aim to manage its business risk, GM Russia has decided […]

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With the Russian ruble experiencing a near collapse in value, multiple OEMs have decided to suspend sales of its vehicles in Russia.

According to a statement sent to Just-Auto, GM’s Russian arm said

“In view of the volatility of [the] rouble exchange rate and with the aim to manage its business risk, GM Russia has decided to temporarily suspend wholesaling of vehicles to its dealers in Russia as of 16 December, 2014,” said a GM Europe statement emailed to just-auto. At the same time we confirm all Cadillac, Opel and Chevrolet vehicles already purchased by customers will be delivered on the agreed price. We are monitoring the situation.”

Bloomberg is reporting that Audi and Jaguar Land Rover have also suspended sales amid uncertainty in foreign exchange markets. Toyota, Volkswagen are set to adjust their prices in the near future to reflect the new exchange rates.

Russian auto sales have spiked in recent weeks as consumers sought to buy up hard assets to protect against a falling ruble. But the erosion on value of the Russian currency have left several OEMs exposed to currency risks. According to Bloomberg’s report, BMW could stand to lose as much as $135 million dollars due to the recent drop in the ruble.

 

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Vauxhall Viva Is Our Next Chevrolet Spark http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/vauxhall-viva-next-chevrolet-spark/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/vauxhall-viva-next-chevrolet-spark/#comments Wed, 03 Dec 2014 16:52:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=955169 Take a look at the Vauxhall Viva – or Opel Karl in the rest of Europe. The South Korean-built minicar is very likely to be our next Chevrolet Spark. With a 1.0L 3-cylinder engine making 75 horsepower, five seats and integration for iOs and Android mobile devices, the Viva is designed to capture former Spark […]

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Take a look at the Vauxhall Viva – or Opel Karl in the rest of Europe. The South Korean-built minicar is very likely to be our next Chevrolet Spark.

With a 1.0L 3-cylinder engine making 75 horsepower, five seats and integration for iOs and Android mobile devices, the Viva is designed to capture former Spark customers (Chevrolet has been axed from Europe) as well those flocking towards the Volkswagen Up! and other A-segment cars. Vauxhall is touting the fact that the Viva will have proper windows that roll up and down, not just pop out, a sign of just how stingy some entrants are in their quest to offer ultra-cheap motoring.

 

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Opel Cascada May Become Buick Velite If Trademark Is Approved http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/opel-cascada-may-become-buick-velite-trademark-approved/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/opel-cascada-may-become-buick-velite-trademark-approved/#comments Mon, 01 Dec 2014 15:00:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=954513 When the Opel Cascada hits U.S. showrooms in 2015 as a Buick, it may leave its name at home, as well. GM Authority reports General Motors recently filed a fifth extension with the United States Patent & Trademark Office for the trademark Velite, with the intent to use it for “motor land vehicles, namely, automobiles, […]

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When the Opel Cascada hits U.S. showrooms in 2015 as a Buick, it may leave its name at home, as well.

GM Authority reports General Motors recently filed a fifth extension with the United States Patent & Trademark Office for the trademark Velite, with the intent to use it for “motor land vehicles, namely, automobiles, sport utility vehicles, trucks, vans, engines therefor and structural parts thereof.”

The trademark had been in use as far back as 2004, when Buick unveiled its Velite convertible concept at that year’s New York Auto Show. Then, it was based upon GM’s Zeta platform, and had a 400-horsepower twin-turbo 3.6-liter V6 paired with a six-speed auto.

Presently, the original application — filed in 2011 — is still not fully approved by the agency, waiting for the automaker to submit its Statement of Use document confirming the trademark will be used on a real-world vehicle.

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Expanding Portfolios Overwhelm Automakers, Consumers Alike http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/expanding-portfolios-overwhelm-automakers-consumers-alike/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/expanding-portfolios-overwhelm-automakers-consumers-alike/#comments Tue, 18 Nov 2014 11:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=946586 With as many plentiful lineups as the eye can see, consumers are beginning to feel overwhelmed, as are the manufacturers who are coming to realize that too many choices are just as bad as offering too few. Yahoo Finance reports automakers like Porsche, Audi and BMW are reaching a point where their respective lineups may […]

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With as many plentiful lineups as the eye can see, consumers are beginning to feel overwhelmed, as are the manufacturers who are coming to realize that too many choices are just as bad as offering too few.

Yahoo Finance reports automakers like Porsche, Audi and BMW are reaching a point where their respective lineups may soon — if not already — overlap themselves, prompting consumers to go as far as to use Excel just to find the exact model and array of features they desire.

Auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers forecast the growth among German automakers would peak at 230 total models in 2018, then begin to flatten out as they cut production costs and improve differentiation among their portfolios, while also injecting what they sell with the latest technologies available at the time.

However, while automakers like Porsche and PSA Peugeot Citroën are implementing caps or drastically cutting down their offerings, others, such as Mercedes-Benz and Opel, plan to add more vehicles to their lineups. The expansions could lead to situations where models can only be seen in virtual showrooms — such as what has happened for BMW — as well as most consumers walking away from buying any vehicle or feeling less satisfied with the one they do buy, due to feeling overwhelmed.

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GM: Opel, Vauxhall Edging Closer To The Black Despite Russia http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/gm-opel-vauxhall-edging-closer-black-despite-russia/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/gm-opel-vauxhall-edging-closer-black-despite-russia/#comments Mon, 27 Oct 2014 14:00:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=936162 Despite problems with the Russian market, as well as restructuring costs, General Motors says Vauxhall and Opel are on their way out of the red and into the black. Automotive News reports the European duo took a Q3 2014 loss of $387 million, compared to $238 million lost in Q3 2013. The majority of the […]

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Despite problems with the Russian market, as well as restructuring costs, General Motors says Vauxhall and Opel are on their way out of the red and into the black.

Automotive News reports the European duo took a Q3 2014 loss of $387 million, compared to $238 million lost in Q3 2013. The majority of the loss comes from Russia, where GM took $194 million in write-downs. A currency challenge with the ruble contributed $100 million to the overall figure, as well.

Barclays Capital analyst Brian Johnson believes that, putting aside the Russian-linked losses, Vauxhall and Opel are coming close to breaking even:

Backing out the losses from Russia, partly from the one-off charges and other related headwinds and partly from a depreciation in the ruble, Opel/Vauxhall looks to have been close to breakeven for the quarter.

GM is looking toward 2016 as the point where both of its European subsidiaries will be in the black, with future earnings between now and then tied to both the upcoming Corsa — set to arrive in January — and Astra. The Corsa already has 30,000 pre-orders, while the outgoing Astra saw its sales fall 9 percent through August 2014 to 121,950; the next-gen model will arrive in 2015.

Overall, the duo saw a 2 percent increase in sales during Q3 2014, moving 253,000. Annual sales through September climbed 8 percent to 683,797, and market share climbed a percentage point to 6.9 percent.

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Buick Shows Cascada To Dealers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/buick-shows-cascada-dealers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/buick-shows-cascada-dealers/#comments Thu, 21 Aug 2014 04:18:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=897178 With the departure of the Volkswagen Eos, Chrysler 200 Convertible and Volvo C30, Buick is looking to enter into the now dead front-drive four seat convertible segment. Buick dealers were recently shown a version of the Cascada, which is said to be arriving Stateside in 2016. According to GM Inside News, the Cascada will be […]

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With the departure of the Volkswagen Eos, Chrysler 200 Convertible and Volvo C30, Buick is looking to enter into the now dead front-drive four seat convertible segment. Buick dealers were recently shown a version of the Cascada, which is said to be arriving Stateside in 2016.

According to GM Inside News, the Cascada will be powered by a 1.6L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, and imported from Germany, rather than built Stateside. This would make it the second imported Buick, after the German-built Regal.

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Buick Prepares For Rental Fleet Dominance http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/buick-prepares-for-rental-fleet-dominance/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/buick-prepares-for-rental-fleet-dominance/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 14:16:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=872850 Automotive News is reporting that the Opel Cascada will make it Stateside in 2016. Aside from giving Buick a fresh new product that isn’t a crossover, the Cascada arrives at an opportune time to capitalize on a small but important niche: the rental market. With the demise of the Chrysler 200 convertible and VW Eos, rental […]

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Automotive News is reporting that the Opel Cascada will make it Stateside in 2016. Aside from giving Buick a fresh new product that isn’t a crossover, the Cascada arrives at an opportune time to capitalize on a small but important niche: the rental market.

With the demise of the Chrysler 200 convertible and VW Eos, rental fleets now have an alternative to the pony car twins for their convertible car class. Believe it or not, not all rental car clients want a Mustang or a Camaro, and the front-drive packaging of the Cascada allows for some packaging efficiencies that aren’t there in a rear drive setup (luggage space, anyone?).

Normally, fleet sales, and daily rental specifically, is treated as a last resort for undesirable product. But in this case, The Cascada is in a position to corner a market that, while declining, is currently wide open – something that GM is familiar with.

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Been Dacia’d And Confused For So Long It’s Not True… http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/been-daciad-and-confused-for-so-long-its-not-true/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/been-daciad-and-confused-for-so-long-its-not-true/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 14:50:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=872090 General Motors took the step of killing off Chevrolet in Europe earlier this year, and has long attempted to position Opel and Vauxhall as mainstream but slightly more premium offerings (analogous to how Volkswagen was once marketed in the United States). And that makes news of a new line of budget cars all the more […]

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General Motors took the step of killing off Chevrolet in Europe earlier this year, and has long attempted to position Opel and Vauxhall as mainstream but slightly more premium offerings (analogous to how Volkswagen was once marketed in the United States). And that makes news of a new line of budget cars all the more confusing.

Just-Auto reports that Opel and Vauxhall will launch two new budget models to attract customers who may have previously opted for Chevrolet cars. First is the new Viva, based on the next-generation Chevrolet Spark. A small SUV, set to rival the Dacia Duster, is also being considered.

Rather than aiming for a brand that specifically targets no-frills motoring, it appears that GM is aiming to emulate Skoda, which at least has some measure of style and chic appeal, even as it positions itself as a value brand. The new Viva looks to be a pretty stylish car, but the brand positioning appears to be contradictory. How can Opel and Vauxhall aspire to sell pseudo-premium sedans like the Insignia while also pushing a new line of budget cars? Then again, nobody can ever accuse GM of having a consistent or coherent brand strategy in Europe.

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Opel-Badged Chevrolet Volt Killed In Europe http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/opel-badged-chevrolet-volt-killed-in-europe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/opel-badged-chevrolet-volt-killed-in-europe/#comments Mon, 21 Jul 2014 19:01:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=870161 The Opel Ampera, an Opel-badged Chevrolet Volt, will be killed off in Europe due to slow sales. The Ampera will be axed after just one generation – with a new Volt being launched in the second half of 2015, an Opel (and presumably Vauxhall) version will not be produced. Automotive News Europe reports that Ampera […]

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The Opel Ampera, an Opel-badged Chevrolet Volt, will be killed off in Europe due to slow sales.

The Ampera will be axed after just one generation – with a new Volt being launched in the second half of 2015, an Opel (and presumably Vauxhall) version will not be produced.

Automotive News Europe reports that Ampera sales slid dramatically in 2013. In Germany, the Ferrari F12 supercar has sold nearly twice as many units as the Ampera.

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2015 Opel Corsa Revealed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/2015-opel-corsa-revealed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/2015-opel-corsa-revealed/#comments Tue, 15 Jul 2014 11:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=863625   Opel’s Fiesta fighter has just bowed in Europe, and for once, we don’t have to feel like we’re missing out. While the Sonic gets the modern Gamma architecture, the Corsa rides on a warmed over version of the Fiat-GM small car platform that also underpins some mediocre Fiat small cars like the Fiat 500L […]

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Opel’s Fiesta fighter has just bowed in Europe, and for once, we don’t have to feel like we’re missing out.

While the Sonic gets the modern Gamma architecture, the Corsa rides on a warmed over version of the Fiat-GM small car platform that also underpins some mediocre Fiat small cars like the Fiat 500L (and the Jeep Renegade).

The lack of an all-new platform for the Corsa seems puzzling given that B-segment cars are so critical in Europe and world markets. With Opel struggling, it may have been hard to justify anything but a rehash of the old Fiat platform. And then there’s also the soon to be introduced Viva, which will be a bit smaller but far more modern and priced at the bottom of the new car segment, to compete with the Volkswagen Up!. Perhaps the fix is in?

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Could The Holden Brand Die With The Commodore? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/could-the-holden-brand-die-with-the-commodore/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/could-the-holden-brand-die-with-the-commodore/#comments Wed, 25 Jun 2014 18:14:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=852297 The next Holden Commodore will come from GM’s European product portfolio, but it won’t carry the Commodore name either. Aussie outlet Carsguide is reporting that despite pleas from Holden, GM is determined to kill the nameplate, since the new Holden large sedan will be so different from the iconic rear-drive model. According to the outlet, […]

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The next Holden Commodore will come from GM’s European product portfolio, but it won’t carry the Commodore name either.

Aussie outlet Carsguide is reporting that despite pleas from Holden, GM is determined to kill the nameplate, since the new Holden large sedan will be so different from the iconic rear-drive model.

According to the outlet, GM may even mandate a name change to Chevrolet if they feel that Holden has become damaged goods following the shuttering of Australian factories, stating

A Holden insider told News Corp Australia last year the switch to Chevrolet could happen if General Motors believes the Holden brand image has been damaged by the shutdown of its factories.

“There is no emotion in this,” the insider said. “It will all come down to money. If General Motors thinks sales will go down because the Holden brand is on the nose, then they will switch it to Chevrolet.”

Marketing experts say it would cost between $500,000 and $1 million to rebrand each of Holden’s 233 dealerships nationwide, and that General Motors would likely foot half the bill for each showroom, forcing Holden dealers to pick up the rest of the tab or lose the franchise.

One Holden insider revealed that the company has been forced to conduct exhaustive research with Australian car buyers to prove the case to Detroit that the Holden brand is worth saving.

“The amount of money we’ve spent trying to defend the Holden brand to Detroit is ridiculous,” the insider said.

“But when executives from North America come out to Australia, they take photos of Chevrolet badges that people have fitted to their Holden (cars), and use that against us.”

The next Commodore (or large Holden) will reportedly come from GM Europe, rather than China or America as previously thought. Holden’s HSV performance division has been spotted with an Opel Insignia OPC test mule, while Holden will be selling a version of that car, as well as other Opel products, through their dealers.

The Insignia will never be as great as a rear-drive Commodore, but it will not be a bad product for a future marketplace that is ready to shift away from large Australian sedans. The move to kill Holden in Chevrolet is mind-boggling, as Chevrolet’s failed foray in Europe demonstrated loud and clear. In a market with over 60 brands, the smart choice is on anything but killing a beloved brand in favor of an untested, foreign replacement.

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Opel Reaches Severance Deal With Bochum Workers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/opel-reaches-severance-deal-with-bochum-workers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/opel-reaches-severance-deal-with-bochum-workers/#comments Tue, 17 Jun 2014 12:00:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=845489 General Motors subsidiary Opel has come to terms on a severance package for workers at its Bochum factory, set to close this year as part of the company’s restructuring plan. Reuters reports Opel’s management reached a “binding and reliable” agreement with German labor union IG Metall. NASDAQ adds workers will receive €552 million ($748 million […]

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General Motors subsidiary Opel has come to terms on a severance package for workers at its Bochum factory, set to close this year as part of the company’s restructuring plan.

Reuters reports Opel’s management reached a “binding and reliable” agreement with German labor union IG Metall. NASDAQ adds workers will receive €552 million ($748 million USD) in social benefits as a result of the agreement.

The closure of the plant — including an additional €60 million ($81 million USD) for related investments — will add to the burden of non-recurring costs for Opel, which also include currency challenges. GM expects Opel will become profitable by 2016 at the earliest, having accumulated $15 billion USD in losses beginning in 1999.

In a separate deal made in April, parts of Bochum will be purchased by Deutsche Post, bringing with it 600 jobs and a multi-million euro investment into the 20-acre facility.

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QOTD: Regulation Is Ruining Car Design http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/qotd-regulation-is-ruining-car-design/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/qotd-regulation-is-ruining-car-design/#comments Mon, 09 Jun 2014 14:42:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=838721 Today’s installment of Quote of the Day comes from Mark Adams, design chief for Opel/Vauxhall and creator of the Monza concept, which is expected to set the design direction for the two brands in the near future – assuming that regulations don’t get in the way. Speaking to Automotive News Europe, Adams opined that  “In the […]

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Today’s installment of Quote of the Day comes from Mark Adams, design chief for Opel/Vauxhall and creator of the Monza concept, which is expected to set the design direction for the two brands in the near future – assuming that regulations don’t get in the way.

Speaking to Automotive News Europe, Adams opined that  “In the last five to 10 years designing cars has gotten a hell of a lot tougher”, with much of the blame going towards regulation. The twin forces of fuel economy and pedestrian safety standards have converged to create very specific parameters for automotive design – hence the proliferation of high hoods, blunt front ends and the “reverse tear drop” shape on so many three-box vehicles. This specific form provides an easy way around all of those requirements, at the cost of an increasingly homogenous cohort of new cars.

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Holden Gets Rebadged Opels http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/holden-gets-rebadged-opels/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/holden-gets-rebadged-opels/#comments Thu, 01 May 2014 13:31:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=813561   Holden may be losing the Commodore, but the brand will gain three new “premium” offerings, suggesting a possible direction for its famed HSV performance shop. Holden-badged versions of the Astra GTC and VXR, Insignia VXR and the Cascada convertible. Just-Auto reports that the Insignia will be a new “fully imported” premium sedan, while the […]

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Holden may be losing the Commodore, but the brand will gain three new “premium” offerings, suggesting a possible direction for its famed HSV performance shop.

Holden-badged versions of the Astra GTC and VXR, Insignia VXR and the Cascada convertible. Just-Auto reports that the Insignia will be a new “fully imported” premium sedan, while the Astra models will target the growing hot hatch segment. Holden expects the Cascada to go up against ragtop entrants from BMW and Audi.

The introduction of the three models suggests a possible future direction for Holden, which will be left without its signature, locally build models like the Commodore. Hotter versions of the rear-drive cars, built by tuning arm HSV, are a big part of Holden’s public image, and the Astra and Insignia could even be future candidates for the HSV treatment.

To some, its heresy to even suggest such a thing. But the three models, which Holden expects to be niche products, are critically acclaimed despite their lack of a V8 and rear-wheel drive. But with rumors of a front-drive Commodore continuing to circulate, a souped-up, front-drive HSV car might be a fixture in the future.

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Ich bin ein Hotrodder: A Story of My Opel Diplomat http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/ich-bin-ein-hotrodder-a-story-of-my-opel-diplomat/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/ich-bin-ein-hotrodder-a-story-of-my-opel-diplomat/#comments Sun, 20 Apr 2014 13:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=804154   While JFK was busy capturing the hearts of the German people with his Ich bin ein Berliner speech, the GM engineers at Rüsselsheim were busy at work finishing their next big project – the series of full-size (on European scale) luxury models, called Kapitän, Admiral and Diplomat. Introduced in February of 1964, the new […]

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While JFK was busy capturing the hearts of the German people with his Ich bin ein Berliner speech, the GM engineers at Rüsselsheim were busy at work finishing their next big project – the series of full-size (on European scale) luxury models, called Kapitän, Admiral and Diplomat. Introduced in February of 1964, the new models were meant to take on Mercedes-Benz, though they shared something in common with contemporary America cars, in that they were really just one car, offered in different equipment levels, and with different engine options. Kapitän was the cheapest, with an inline six under the hood, standard manual transmission and relatively sparse equipment. Its size, equipment and power put it somewhere between American compacts and midsize cars of the time, like a smaller 1964 Chevelle, with a dash of Buick styling.

The other two models were more interesting. The Admiral added some equipment, and available V8 engine – the venerable Chevy Small Block, in 283 cubic inch guise. The top of the line Diplomat, which came with even more luxury, shunned the six cylinder altogether. It was produced with a choice of the 283ci V8, and the famous 327, both teamed with a two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission. The Diplomat even spawned a sexy, Riviera-like V8 coupe model, with only 347 examples and now exceedingly rare – and terribly expensive.

In the next four years, nearly 90,000 KAD Opels were built. Most lived their lives on Germany’s roads and Autobahns, but some went to other countries. A few even got to the other side of the Berlin Wall. And at least two or three (although probably more) made their way to Hungary.

Around the time of the KAD’s final production run, a white Galaxie 500 coupe, with a 390 big block engine, rolled off the Ford assembly line on the other side of the world.

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For the next half a century, those were totally unrelated events. While the Galaxie 500 puttered around Southern California, preserved by the desert climate, the Admirals and Diplomats in Hungary led eventful, hard lives, which lead them in the state of wrecks.

But their stories were meant to come together. Early in the new century, a Hungarian guy called István bought up three KAD Opels, and started putting them together to build one good car. And some time after that, the old guy owning the Galaxie decided to put it on eBay, where a young guy from Czech Republic saw it, and decided to buy it. That guy was me, and the goal was to import the car, have some fun with it and then flip it for a profit. It didn’t work, because I chose the wrong car. Instead of buying a nicely preserved, but uninteresting four-door, with shiny paint and gleaming chrome, which would sell easily in Europe, I decided to buy a car muscle car enthusiast would like – two-door with a big block engine, discs in front… but also with faded paint and lots of dings and scrapes. Which meant the car didn’t sell, and as my attempt on US classic car importing business fell apart in the global financial crisis, I was stuck with a car I had no means to restore.

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At the same time, István fixed up his Opel. He put the best parts of the two or three cars together, fixing up the best body, rebuilding the 283 engine, fitting the modern 200R4 transmission with a bunch of hot-rodder upgrades, and painted the whole thing flat black, to achieve the cool hot-rod look. To spice things up, he added red wheels, and dual exhausts with glasspack mufflers. But before he got around to restoring the interior or finishing details, he got fed up with the thing. He needed change, and he wanted to go American.

I guess you can see where this is going. Two guys with cars that are hard to sell, both in Central Europe, both lusting for what the other one has.

I don’t even recall for sure who did the first contact. I think it was me. We exchanged e-mails for some time, sending photos of our cars, details about their condition, lists of what was done (on his) and what needed to be done (on mine). And eventually, we came to agreement that we really like each other’s car, and that we’ll go through with the trade. It was decided that it would be me who will do the trip, trailering my Galaxie to István’s place in Budapest. I called a friend of mine with a Seat Alhambra and a car trailer (yes, my American friends – while you think that your ¾ ton truck may not be enough to trailer a car, we do it with minivans), we agreed on a date, and off we went.

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The trip itself would be quite uneventful, with the exception of my idiot friend conveniently “forgetting” he was meant to do it for free (to repay some money he owed me), and needing me (totally broke at the time – partly because of said idiot’s actions, like blowing up transmission and differential in my Chevy Caprice) to pony up the fuel money. The exchange went well, I got a tour of the speed shop where István worked, full of cool muscle cars, hot rods and motorcycles. I did a test drive, and fell in love with the car. We shook hands, loaded the car, and off we went.

My slight annoyment about having to pay for the fuel grew into full-blown rage when I found out that we’re nearly out of fuel, have no Hungarian money and may not make it to the first gas station in Slovakia. I firmly decided to unload the Opel and proceed home, leaving my idiot friend stranded in Hungary – with no money, and no ability to understand their language. Fortunately, the venerable 1.9 TDI turbo-diesel marvel once again shown its unbelievable efficiency and took us to Slovakia, and then home.

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So, I was now in possession of a huge (for Europe, it was about the size of the S-class) beast with a slight identity crisis. The car wasn’t sure whether it’s Admiral or Diplomat (although the paperwork said Diplomat), and most of all, it was a cross between an old German luxury sedan and typical American muscle car. With some hot rod influences here and there, starting with the red wheels and Mooneye decals, and ending with the monstrous roar from the exhaust.

Simply put, it was a perfect car for my daily driver, and that was exactly what I wanted to do with it. At the time, I basically had no other fully street legal and functional vehicle, except for the steady stream of press cars. And I had this idea that unlike the 1967 Dodge Coronet, which I also owned at the time and which could only be registered as “antique”, slightly restricting the daily-driver duties, the Diplomat was the perfect solution for times when I had no press car.

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Of course, using the nearly half a century old hot rod for daily driver duties has its problems. If we dismiss the obvious stuff, like fuel consumption(circa 10 to 16mpg) and its enormous size, there was still the other white elephant – it’s a hot rod.

Those of you who live in good old US of A are probably familiar with what a Chevy Small Block with glasspacks sounds like. For the rest of you, it is best likened to four Harley-Davidson motorcycles with loud pipes, running in unison. Slight problem, if you want to go somewhere, or come from somewhere, during the night, and don’t want neighbors to key your car or throw stuff at you. But this could be avoided by leaving and approaching your home while idling – at least that didn’t set off car alarms.

But being a hot rod, meant for nice, sunny days, the Opel had no choke. And starting a carbureted vehicle with no choke, especially in colder weather, means revving the engine for at least a minute, before you set off. Or it would stall. Which gives your neighbours about a minute to come out of their houses and murder you.

Also, the car lacked some other unnecessary stuff, like a heater. And the lowered front end was pretty cool to look at, but the wheel lock was a bit reduced by the tires rubbing against wheel arches. Which sucks for maneuvering in parking lots.

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But non of it mattered, because, oh, boy, it was fun to drive. Of all the cars I owned, this got closest to my ideal of a big, evil, noisy hot-rod/muscle car thing. Not that it drove any good of course. Those big Opels were basically midsize American cars, modified just very slightly for European use. And even pure European cars of that time weren’t significantly better driving or handling than American ones – this came much, much later.

I don’t remember the handling of that thing very much, mostly because it didn’t have any. By turning that monstrous steering wheel in front of you, you were able to somehow tell the car where it should go, and it somehow obeyed. With disc brakes, it was somehow able to stop. But driving fast into corners wasn’t something that would ever cross your mind.

And the funny part was that it wasn’t even fast. It sure sounded fast, and with an open diff and 185-section tires, it was able to lay rubber, peg-legged, for maybe 60 feet. But the 283 was totally stock, with a 2-barrel cabrburettor, and it had 190 horsepower originally – which I suspect were SAE gross horsepower, leaving the “real” number somewhere around 160hp. I can imagine how slow the thing had to be with original Powerglide two-speed, but thankfully, the 200R4 made things a bit more sprightly. And extremely firm shifts of the hot-rodded tranny helped the “feeling of speed”.

The car roared off the line, with heavy jolts on each shift, squealing rubber… and then got beat by just about anything at least remotely quick, including some faster diesels. In a way, it was a really safe way of having fun, because you were going slow all the time, anyway.

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I had big plans for the car. Buying some nicer and bigger wheels, fixing up the annoying problems like too loud glasspacks or missing heater. Or at least registering it in my name, instead of running on the expired Hungarian temporary tags all the time. I even thought about adding some more horsepower, either by massaging the 283, or selling it to someone who wanted a stock engine, and building a Chevy 302. Actually, I think that was one of my best project car ideas of all time – German sedan with 8000rpm-revving Chevy engine.

But then life got in the way. A failing business meant debts to pay – and a lot of them. That’s why I still drive a borrowed Town Car, and why I had to sell the Opel some three years ago. I don’t think I drove it for more than maybe a thousand miles, but even in that short time, I’ve made tons of memories with it.

When I offered it for sale, no one in Czech Republic wanted it – even when I lowered the price way under its worth. I nearly sold it for peanuts, when I realized I didn’t try Germany. And of course, because Germans love old German cars, it sold – in about three days, for basically what I wanted in the ad (and I regretted not wanting more afterwards).

Last I heard from the new owner, he sent me some pictures of the car with new Cragar mags, straightened bodywork and a new paint (again flat black), and scoop sticking out of the hood. I guess the Opel is still alive and well, terrorizing the Germany’s streets.

Photo credits:
Opel, myself, Radek Beneš, István Zitas (pictures in gallery below)

@VojtaDobes is motoring journalist from Czech Republic, who previously worked for local editions of Autocar and TopGear magazines. Today, he runs his own website, www.Autickar.cz and serves as editor-in-chief at www.USmotors.cz. After a failed adventure with importing classic American cars to Europe, he is utterly broke, so he drives a borrowed Lincoln Town Car. His previous cars included a 1988 Caprice in NYC Taxi livery, a hot-rodded Opel Diplomat, two Dodge Coronets, a Simca, a Fiat 600 and Austin Maestro. He has never owned a diesel, manual wagon.

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GM Internal Investigation Hindered By Corporate Culture http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/gm-internal-investigation-hindered-by-corporate-culture/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/gm-internal-investigation-hindered-by-corporate-culture/#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 10:58:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=798970 Bloomberg reports now-former General Motors engineer Brian Stouffer conducted a two-year internal investigation into the out-of-spec switch at the heart of the automaker’s current recall crisis, only to find confusion and resistance along the way to finding answers as to why vehicles up through 2008 were stalling out. In addition, Stouffer reported to three different […]

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Bloomberg reports now-former General Motors engineer Brian Stouffer conducted a two-year internal investigation into the out-of-spec switch at the heart of the automaker’s current recall crisis, only to find confusion and resistance along the way to finding answers as to why vehicles up through 2008 were stalling out. In addition, Stouffer reported to three different executives assigned to the investigation in one year as it moved along, as well as the lack of sufficient cases that met the criteria required. Only in late 2013, when Delphi responded to Stouffer’s inquiry by providing the document showing the changes made to the switch back in 2006, did the investigation come to a head.

Automotive News posits that the link between the out-of-spec switch and the 13 fatalities under the spotlight may have been muddied under other circumstances focused upon the drivers involved, ranging from being unbelted and driving under the influence, to speeding and lack of experience behind the wheel. Further, both police and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration didn’t immediately make the link between the switch and undeployed airbags, the former citing numerous instances and the various reasons behind each failure.

Though it would appear as though GM were the new kings of recalls as of late, Boston-based used-car shopping site iSeeCars compiled data of the top 15 automakers who sold vehicles in the United States between 2005 and 2014, and found the automaker among the middle of the recall list with 96 recalls for every 100 vehicles sold. Toyota took the No. 1 spot with 167 recalls per 100 sold, while Mercedes-Benz took last place with 38 per 100.

Within GM, public relations head Selim Bingol and human resources chief Melissa Howell have both left the automaker “to pursue other interests.” The departures are not related to the recall crisis, according to spokesman Greg Martin, explaining the exits as “a part of any transition where the CEO makes changes and puts together her leadership team.” That team will now consist of John Quattrone, who will head the human resources department CEO Mary Barra ran until 2011, while head of investor relations Randy Arickx will serve as interim PR chief until a permanent replacement is found.

Finally, The Wall Street Journal reports Opel may finally break even ahead of a 2016 target date after years of seeing red. The charge toward equilibrium is being cautiously led by CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann, whose changes to the company — including the closure of a plant in Germany, a $6 billion investment in Europe, and the introduction of 23 models by 2016 — have helped Opel see a rise of 3 percent in European Union sales during the first two months of 2014. The news follows similar signs of hope for GM overall, as Automotive News adds Cadillac’s and Buick’s first-ever wins in J.D. Power & Associates’ 2014 Customer Service Index, as well as the Chevrolet Equinox/GMC Terrain twins being the only two midsize SUVs to receive a “good” rating by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in the small-overlap test as small victories for the automaker.

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Opel Will Build Buicks For North America http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/opel-will-build-buicks-for-north-america/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/opel-will-build-buicks-for-north-america/#comments Fri, 28 Mar 2014 13:38:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=782977 Opel is announcing that they will build a Buick model for North America in the “second half of the decade”. Automotive News reports that the announcement comes amid a $245 million euro investment for the Ruesselsheim, Germany plant that will start exporting to North America, and receive a new model. At the same time, Opel will […]

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Opel is announcing that they will build a Buick model for North America in the “second half of the decade”.

Automotive News reports that the announcement comes amid a $245 million euro investment for the Ruesselsheim, Germany plant that will start exporting to North America, and receive a new model. At the same time, Opel will stop plans to export to China, allowing the much stronger Buick brand to take the lead.

Neither the Opel Adam nor the Cascada are built at Ruesselsheim, which raises the question of what model Opel will build for Buick. Currently, the Insignia, aka our Buick Regal, is built at the site.

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QOTD: What’s Buick’s Next Niche? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/qotd-whats-buicks-next-niche/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/qotd-whats-buicks-next-niche/#comments Wed, 26 Mar 2014 09:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=781153 Industry sources tell TTAC that Buick is due for a new niche car in the next couple of years, and it could only be one of two models. According to our sources, the nameplate will be a low-volume car that is expected to attract someone who might otherwise be interested in a Verano. That narrows […]

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Industry sources tell TTAC that Buick is due for a new niche car in the next couple of years, and it could only be one of two models.

According to our sources, the nameplate will be a low-volume car that is expected to attract someone who might otherwise be interested in a Verano. That narrows it down to two choices: the Adam subcompact, or the Cascada.

The Adam, sold as an Opel in Europe, will also be badged as a Buick for the Chinese market. GM’s new small, turbocharged engine family seems to be a good fit for the car, which was heavily touted at the new engine’s introduction. According to Jalopnikthe Adam would apparently be packaged with a new three-cylinder engine. How that might fit with the Buick brand would be an interesting question, as the Vernao and other cars are often touted as offering a quiet ride and superior NVH characteristics. But having a small car that appeals to younger buys wouldn’t be the worst thing. I never thought the Encore would work, but I was dead wrong.

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The other possibility is the Cascada, a four-seat ragtop based on the Verano. While convertibles are hardly the strongest segment, the death of the Chrysler 200 has left a giant void in the market for an American convertible that isn’t a pony car. Believe it or not, consumers (and of course, rental fleets) are interested in a front-drive ragtop that places more emphasis on comfort than speed, and the Cascada could fill that void nicely.

The big question is, what will it be? I’m going to hedge my bets and say…both. I really do believe both products will arrive on our shores first, but the Adam might be the one that gets here first. B&B, time for you to play armchair product planner and make your case for one or the other.

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Review: 2014 Opel Astra Manual Diesel Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/review-2014-opel-astra-manual-diesel-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/review-2014-opel-astra-manual-diesel-wagon/#comments Mon, 10 Mar 2014 12:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=761313 Recently, Mark Reuss told media that he would like GM to have an American wagon. If this happens, the prime candidate is the Chevy Cruze Wagon, which already exists – and is also offered with diesel engine and manual transmission. But what if GM wanted something more upscale? What if Reuss’ dream wagon is meant […]

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Recently, Mark Reuss told media that he would like GM to have an American wagon. If this happens, the prime candidate is the Chevy Cruze Wagon, which already exists – and is also offered with diesel engine and manual transmission. But what if GM wanted something more upscale? What if Reuss’ dream wagon is meant to be a Buick?

Several cars in the Buick line are siblings to European Opels (or Vauxhalls, in Great Britain). Two of them are also available as wagons – the Insignia Sports Tourer is basically Buick Regal Estate Wagon, and the Opel Astra Sports Tourer would make, with some re-badging, a nice Buick Verano Estate Wagon. The Astra/Verano is probably the better candidate for the American wagon, since it’s almost as roomy inside as Regal/Insignia (with seats folded flat, it actually has more cargo space), and is significantly cheaper.

Why not go all the way, and make it a sporty diesel, manual wagon. Last year, the Astra’s engine line-up was enhanced by addition of the 190hp 2.0 CDTI Biturbo version. Actually, it’s more than just an engine option – Biturbo comes as  a separate equipment level, somewhere half-way between ordinary Astras and the full-on sporty OPC version. It doesn’t have the same clever Hi-Per strut front suspension the OPC and GTC (that’s the three door hatch coupe version), but it’s been lowered, fitted with stylish 18” wheels and dual exhaust tips, special seats and a trick front spoiler.

The core of the Biturbo package is the engine. Two-liter diesel plant with common-rail direct injection offers some 190 horsepower and 235 lb-ft (320 Nm) sent to the front wheels through the six-speed manual gearbox. That puts the Astra Biturbo right on the border of the diesel hot hatch/hot wagon territory – but the Biturbo is not nearly so ostentatious. In fact, seeing that it’s not called the “OPC diesel”, it seems that Opel really wanted it to be more of a fast GT than a realy sports wagon.

The Biturbo’s exterior is quite restrained – no wings or flares or vivid paint to tell everyone you bought “the fast one”. Thanks to the slightly different front bumper, large (and really pretty) wheels and lowered ride height, the Biturbo looks more handsome than “ordinary” Astras, but unless parked beside one, most people will never notice why it even looks different. They’ll just like it a bit more than they usually like Astras. It makes for a wonderful sleeper.

Once you open the door, things change. The seats with red highlights and a silly “tire tread” motif seem incongruous with the discreet exterior. And I suspect that older people will have slight problem getting out of the front ones, since they’re really heavily sculpted.

But as the driver, you will probably love them. They offer lots of support, and even the base version is widely adjustable (you can add more adjustment as an option). I would really like to have an adjustable headrest, as it was too much forward, but overall, the seats are nice. And it gets even better once you reach for the wheel. The fact that it’s adjustable both in rake and reach is pretty much normal these days, but most cars are lacking in the range of adjustment. If you like to sit in the “proper” position, with the steering wheel high and close to your chest, and the backrest as vertical as you can bear, you run into all sorts of problems – usually with not enough range. In the Astra, it took me just a few moments to find a nearly perfect driving position. And the steering wheel’s thickness and diameter was spot-on as well, although the shape was not. I have never understood what was wrong about steering wheels being round… this ain’t no racecar, dudes!

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Remember everything you heard about the modern diesels being so refined you hardly even know that you’re not running on gas? This is not the case, even though the Astra uses a very sophisticated common-rail system. The Biturbo two-liter may sound more refined than the old N/A plants from W123 or W124 Benzes, but it isn’t that much quieter.

Shifting into first brings much more positive thoughts. The shifter action is light and quite precise. Maybe not the best in the business, but certainly pleasant to use. Leaving the parking lot, you notice the first difference between the Biturbo and ordinary Astra, in the form of loud scratching sound when the front splitter hits the ground for the first of many times. In the beginning, you drive slow and carefully to prevent this from happening. Then, you realize it’s pointless exercise and just wonder when you’ll rip it off (as I found out later, Opel employees bolted the splitter to the bumper to prevent journos from losing it somewhere).

From a European perspective, the Astra feels massive inside. Compared competitors like the Ford Focus or Renault Mégane, it seems to be just so much bigger – which gives you a feeling of safety, but also makes parking quite tricky. If you’re buying one, don’t forget to add both front and rear parking sensors, or, better yet, a back-up camera.

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I may have criticized the Tesla Model S for having no tactile controls, but the Astra is at the other end of the spectrum. There’s incomprehensible sea of buttons, captioned with confusing acronyms. If you’re new to the car, you will be hopelessly lost. I did find myself acclimating to this layout as I drove it, but I’d be worried if that didn’t happen.

Quibbles aside, the Astra is a nice car to drive. Even with the Biturbo’s stiffer suspension and on large 18” wheels, it’s reasonably supple. Hit the sport button and you’re treated to less steering assistance, quicker accelerator response and the red glow of the instruments – of, and the adjustable dampers firm up, making the ride a bit more brittle. Luckily, you can disable any of these. I really hated the red instruments.

While most of the diesel hot hatches seem stuck on getting the best Nurburgring lap time – and suffering for it in the real world- the Astra feels more grown-up, more comfortable . On our drive into the twisties, with sport mode on and the radio turned down, the Astra delivered a competent, but not exactly exhilirating performance. Handling was fairly neutral, even with the heavy diesel engine up front. Like most modern racks, the steering has a bit of a dead-zone on-center, but it’s well weighted. The clutch and gear change are all nicely done.

But American wagon enthusiasts need to temper their expectations. This is not a fiesty hot hatch like the Focus ST. It feels much more like a GT, at home on highways rather than back roads, and all its heft – perceived or real (it weighs about 3700 lbs) makes it feel like it was meant to be a Buick from the beginning.

The only trouble is that once you get to cruising speed and the engine noise fades into background, it’s replaced by even more unpleasant road and aerodynamic noise. At typical A-road speed of 50-70mph, it’s a bit annoying, but not terrible. At highway speeds of 80 or 90mph, it starts to bother you. And if you’re in the hurry and try to keep the Astra at 110-120mph, it’s hard to even listen to the radio.

Fuel economy is one area that doesn’t disappoint. At a typical relaxed pace (55-60mph on major roads), the Astra can get over 40 mpg. And only when driven really hard in the twisties, with the pedal to the metal on each and every straight and the speedo needle sometimes nudging 100mph, it barely gets under 20mpg. High-speed, cruising with speeds in the triple digits brought similar numbers.

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 But, would the diesel Verano (GSD, maybe?) be a good car for America? I’m not sure. First of all, the economics for a diesel passenger car rare make sense with fuel prices so low (yes, I know, resale and all that matters too). And as much as North Americans may fetishize the idea of a diesel performance wagon, I’m not sold on the tradeoffs in refinement that the Biturbo Astra requires. In Europe, this car costs as much as a Ford Focus ST wagon, which is much faster, much more fun and not much worse on fuel when cruising on the highway.

But if you’re really hell bent on getting a diesel, manual wagon, this would be a nice choice.

@VojtaDobes is motoring journalist from Czech Republic, who previously worked for local editions of Autocar and TopGear magazines. Today, he runs his own website, www.Autickar.cz and serves as editor-in-chief at www.USmotors.cz. After a failed adventure with importing classic American cars to Europe, he is utterly broke, so he drives a borrowed Lincoln Town Car. His previous cars included a 1988 Caprice in NYC Taxi livery, a hot-rodded Opel Diplomat, two Dodge Coronets, a Simca, a Fiat 600 and Austin Maestro. He has never owned a diesel, manual wagon.

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Opel Cascada Leading Brand’s Return To Australia http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/opel-cascada-leading-brands-return-to-australia/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/opel-cascada-leading-brands-return-to-australia/#comments Thu, 06 Mar 2014 13:30:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=766153 Though the local auto industry in Australia is slowly drawing to a close, a few Opels will soon be found in Holden showrooms, beginning with the Cascada convertible. Carsguide reports Holden dealers were told in a briefing to make room for the convertible on their sales floors, as well as to expect more Opels to […]

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Though the local auto industry in Australia is slowly drawing to a close, a few Opels will soon be found in Holden showrooms, beginning with the Cascada convertible.

Carsguide reports Holden dealers were told in a briefing to make room for the convertible on their sales floors, as well as to expect more Opels to arrive in the future. Though nothing more was said about which Opels were to follow, News Corp Australia believes the Astra could be the next in line, sold alongside the locally produced Cruze until the end of all local production in 2017.

The Cascada’s arrival to the Australian market comes after Opel as a brand left the continent in August 2013, where 20 dealerships were folded and 15 office staff based in Melbourne were dismissed due to poor sales; prior to the experiment, Opel sold their cars with Holden badges in the 1990s through the early 2000s.

Opel’s return is part of a strategy by General Motors president and New Zealand native Dan Ammann to reaffirm his employer’s commitment to the Australian market, and to Holden, as he told reporters at the 2014 Geneva Auto Show this week:

We’re going to make sure we bring the product portfolio to the market that the customers really want. The Australian market has evolved a lot… it’s going to come back to how do we best meet their needs.

The Cascada will be sold for $50,000 AUD by the end of 2014.

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Opel Adam Entering Chinese Market As A Buick http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/opel-adam-entering-chinese-market-as-a-buick/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/opel-adam-entering-chinese-market-as-a-buick/#comments Thu, 27 Feb 2014 13:55:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=756345 When the Opel Adam enters the Chinese auto market in 2015, it will do so with a Buick badge as General Motors’ first high-end city car. CarNewsChina reports the Adam will sell for somewhere between 169,800 yuan and 268,800 yuan, the same price range as that of the city car’s main competitor, the Fiat 500. […]

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2013-Opel-ADAM-Models

When the Opel Adam enters the Chinese auto market in 2015, it will do so with a Buick badge as General Motors’ first high-end city car.

CarNewsChina reports the Adam will sell for somewhere between 169,800 yuan and 268,800 yuan, the same price range as that of the city car’s main competitor, the Fiat 500. Buick will import the Adam at first, though local production could come to fruition further down the road.

Under the hood, two engines will be available to future Adam owners, including a 1.2-liter engine driving 69 horses through the front wheels, and a larger 1.4-liter with 100 horsepower. Both engines are gasoline-powered.

The customer base for the Adam are those seeking a trendsetting lifestyle machine that has little to do with their parents’ Regal or other sedans.

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GM Agrees to Keep Three Opel Plants Open Through 2018 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/gm-agrees-to-keep-three-opel-plants-open-through-2018/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/gm-agrees-to-keep-three-opel-plants-open-through-2018/#comments Mon, 03 Feb 2014 11:00:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=731010 Just a few days after new GM CEO Mary Barra visited Opel’s headquarters in Ruesselsheim and said the company’s plant there will be assigned a new vehicle to build, General Motors’ Opel unit has come to an agreement with the company’s labor unions to extend until the end of 2018 a no-layoff guarantee at three […]

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Opels being assembled in Eisenach, Germany

Opels being assembled in Eisenach, Germany

Just a few days after new GM CEO Mary Barra visited Opel’s headquarters in Ruesselsheim and said the company’s plant there will be assigned a new vehicle to build, General Motors’ Opel unit has come to an agreement with the company’s labor unions to extend until the end of 2018 a no-layoff guarantee at three German plants. According to Reuters, the Ruesselsheim factory, plants at Kaiserslautern and Eisenach will remain open. Opel also announced that the Eisenach assembly plant will build the next generation Opel Adam and Corsa models. Approximately 7,150 employees work at the three factories.

Production ends later this year at Opel’s fourth German factory in Bochum.

The agreement is a hopeful sign of better labor relations at Opel. Management and labor have differed in the recent past about how to return GM’s European unit to profitability.

“For the company and its employees this is an important step toward securing our future,” Ulrich Schumacher, Opel’s head of personnel, said in a statement.

In the labor deal, Opel promised to add another model for Ruesselsheim to build, to continue making the Adam and Corse in Eisenach and to keep the Kaiserslautern component operations going.

GM has lost an estimated $18 billion on its European operations over the last 12 years. The company says that it’s on track to break even in Europe in 2015 after a redesigned Corsa subcompact is launched late this year, and a redesigned Astra concept is introduced next year along with new gasoline and diesel engines.

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Barra’s GM Holding Firm On Plans To Revive Opel Profits http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/barras-gm-holding-firm-on-plans-to-revive-opel-profits/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/barras-gm-holding-firm-on-plans-to-revive-opel-profits/#comments Tue, 28 Jan 2014 16:45:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=725858 Appearing before Opel’s best and brightest in Germany, General Motors CEO Mary Barra proclaimed her company’s European brand, though unprofitable, is a vital one for the General. Last year, GM announced they would invest $5.5 billion through 2016 to fund the development of 23 new models and 13 new engines to aid in the overhaul […]

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Appearing before Opel’s best and brightest in Germany, General Motors CEO Mary Barra proclaimed her company’s European brand, though unprofitable, is a vital one for the General.

Last year, GM announced they would invest $5.5 billion through 2016 to fund the development of 23 new models and 13 new engines to aid in the overhaul of Opel’s aging lineup, with president Dan Ammann — responsible for global regions under Barra — being nominated as supervisory board chairman at Opel. The automaker is also holding firm on plans to build an all-new vehicle for Opel’s main factory in Germany, all in an effort to help the brand return to profitability by the middle of the 2010s.

In turn, GM recently withdrew Chevrolet from Europe to give Opel more breathing room, as well as planning to shutter Opel’s plan in Bochum, Germany by the end of 2014. Meanwhile, the Ruesselsheim will be assigned a new model sometime down the line to go with the Insignia and Zafira Tourer.

European sales of Opel and Vauxhall fell 1.5 percent in 2013 to 825,000 units, while market share held at 6.7 percent. The duo are the third-largest brand behind Volkswagen and Ford.

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Review: 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-buick-regal-gs-awd-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-buick-regal-gs-awd-with-video/#comments Thu, 23 Jan 2014 14:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=698417 In my mind, Volkswagens used to be the “Euro Buick.” Positioned one note above the mass market rabble,  VW’s Passat shared parts with Audi’s A4, while the Touareg and Phaeton were luxury cars with a mass market logo on the hood. Then Volkswagen decided this was the wrong strategy for them, so they repositioned VW […]

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2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior

In my mind, Volkswagens used to be the “Euro Buick.” Positioned one note above the mass market rabble,  VW’s Passat shared parts with Audi’s A4, while the Touareg and Phaeton were luxury cars with a mass market logo on the hood. Then Volkswagen decided this was the wrong strategy for them, so they repositioned VW as the German alternative to Toyota and Chevrolet. This left a gaping hole in the market for shoppers looking to step into a European near-luxury vehicle that flew under the radar. And then Buick stepped in.Buick’s Opel-based product offensive has transformed the brand from Barcalounger wheels for the octogenarian, to a window into the soul of GM’s German brand. This transformation isn’t an easy one as Buick’s problem wasn’t just blue-haired buyers and slinky-soft springs. Buick is the penultimate middle child. Jammed between Chevrolet and Cadillac, brand B’s mission is to give Chevy buyers something to aspire to and Cadillac buyers something to graduate from.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

When you say “Regal GS” my mind immediately leaps to the fourth-generation Regal (2nd generation W-body) with the supercharged 3.8L V6. When I was car shopping in 2000 I dearly wanted a Regal GS but there were two problems: Buick’s grandmotherly image and the price tag. As a result I bought an entirely different old person car: a Chrysler LHS. But I digress. This GS is an entirely different beast. Buick’s latest middle child is none other than Opel’s largest sedan, the Insignia. Refreshed for the 2014 model year, the differences between the Insignia and the Regal are most pronounced on the exterior where a Buick waterfall grille and logo have been inserted into the same opening as the Opel and ventiports have been added to the hood. And… that’s about it.

Two things are obvious when looking at the Buick Regal: it was designed in Europe and it was designed to to be both a Buick and an Opel from the start. Rather than looking out of place (like the Chrysler 300 to Lancia Thema transition) the Regal looks “meant to be.” Although the Regal is related to the Chevy Malibu, there’s essentially no exterior resemblance. The Regal GS I spent a week in gets the tweaked front and rear bumpers from Opel’s Insigia OPC model which ditches the foglamps for extra ventilation and integrates the exhaust tips into the rear bumper cover. Circling back around to those ventiports: I still think they look silly, but thankfully the Regal has the right number (four) and they are smaller and less conspicuously placed than on other Buick models I could mention.

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Interior-003

Interior

2014 brings a new interior to the Regal based around a standard 8-inch touchscreen and new center console. Although you will still find a few hard plastics in the cabin, overall materials quality has improved and is firmly competitive with the Volkswagen CC, Audi A4 and Acura TL. Most cabin touch points feel more premium than the more expensive Lexus ES but the Volvo S60/S80 still lead the segment. Non-GS shoppers can opt for a handsome two-tone interior that combines a brown steering wheel and upper dash with a light grey/tan seats and carpet which would be my preference. GS models however are stuck with a very Germanic black-on-black theme. Part of the GS package is an 8-inch LCD instrument cluster and a chunkier steering wheel with sport grips, soft leather and a flat bottom. The disco dash is not as configurable as Chrysler’s 7-inch unit but the graphics are more modern and the system allows you full access to your media device, something uConnect still lacks.

For reasons unknown Buick chose not to borrow the Recaro seats found in the Insignia OPC, opting instead for more aggressively bolstered versions of the standard seat design. This may be because Buick owners are less likely to need the 5-point harness design, but it is most likely because we Americans are fatter so fewer of us would fit in the narrow seats. My 6-foot and slightly overweight frame fit snugly and comfortably in the front seats but the ceiling in the rear of the Regal proved too low for me to sit without cocking my head to the side. The lack of rear seat headroom was disappointing because the Regal offers several inches more rear leg room than the RWD Cadillac ATS and CTS and three inches more than the Volvo S60 and S80.

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Buick Link

Infotainment

Like the LaCrosse, the Regal and the Opel Insignia now uses a modified version of Cadillac’s CUE. For reasons I don’t understand however, Buick doesn’t get Opel’s interesting touchpad with “finger writing” recognition that Opel has been advertising across the pond. I’m guessing this is so that Buick doesn’t step on Cadillac’s toes. Compared to CUE there are a few other changes for Buick-duty. The expensive glass capacitive touchscreen (looks like a modern smartphone) is swapped for a resistive unit that isn’t as crisp or as glare reducing and we have physical buttons for some system features, a marked improvement over Cadillac’s touchscreen only interface. Aside from these charges, the majority of CUE remains.

Like Ford’s MyFord Touch system, IntelliLink is sluggish in general and sometimes totally unresponsive. The software also suffers from unintuitive menu layouts and old-school mapping software that doesn’t jive with the system’s high-resolution screen. Like CUE, some multi-touch gestures are supported, but the different touchscreen is less able to decipher your intent leading to some frustrating moments. On the bright side, CUE’s selling points remain. The system’s voice command system features natural language commands and instead of treating the USB ports as separate inputs, the system aggregates them into one large music library allowing you to voice command songs without specifying the device.

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Engine 2.0L Turbo-001

Drivetrain

Nestled sideways under the hood is the same 2.0L direct-injection turbocharged four-cylinder engine that the Cadillac ATS and CTS use. Good for 259 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of twist, this is the same engine that you find in the “regular Regal.” That’s right, no longer does “GS” stand for “more power.” This means the GS looses 11 ponies vs 2013 but the turbo Regal gains 39 vs 2013. To differentiate things, GM does alter the torque curve to deliver all 295 twists at 2,500 RPM instead of 3,000 in the non-GS model. GM hasn’t completely ruled out the 325 horse 2.8L twin-turbo V6 the Insignia OPC uses for the American market, but I’d call it a long shot.

GS shoppers can choose either a 6-speed manual transaxle or a 6 speed automatic, but if you want the optional Haldex AWD system you’re forced to select the auto.  Although the GS uses the same AWD system as the regular Regal AWD, the engineers tossed in an electronically controlled limited slip rear differential. GS trims also bump the suspension up a notch by combining GM’s HiPer Strut technology with active dampers on all four corners. The suspension offers three modes: normal, sport and GS. The feel ranges from European family sedan to firm.

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Gauges-001

Drive

GM’s HiPer Strut suspension is designed to bring the steering axis more in line with the tire centerline, something you typically find in rear-wheel drive cars. Aligning the axis more closely results in better tracking, less torque steer and a front tire with a more consistent camber across the suspension’s travel. Versus the outgoing model, the front tires contact patch is improved in corners when the front suspension is loaded resulting in higher grip. Coupled with an AWD system that sends 50% of the power to the rear under hard acceleration, we get the first Buick in a long time with virtually zero torque steer.

The downside to the trendy new steering knuckle design is feel. Steering is very precise but suffers from the same Novocaine-laced feedback as everything else out there with electric power steering. Despite a 58/42 F/R weight distribution, the Regal GS has impeccable manners up to 9/10ths, where it starts to lose composure. Trouble is, without steering feedback it’s hard to tell where 9/10ths is located. In contrast, the Volvo S60 T6 AWD and S80 T6 AWD offer less grip but more feel.

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-007

Driving a FWD Regal back to back with our AWD tester, I kept thinking “there’s just something I dislike about the FWD model”. As it turns out, there is a reason the FWD Regal felt unsettled in the rear over broken pavement, the AWD model gets an entirely different “H-Link” independent rear suspension. Coupled with the active dampers, the Regal felt well composed on a variety of road surfaces despite being tuned firmer than the rest of the American and Swedish competition. Rather than being the softest entry in the segment, the GS is among the firmer.

Put your foot to the floor and the GS will run to 60 in 6.7 seconds, exactly the same as the W-Body Regal GS I remember with fond memories. The difference is, the W-Body’s torque steer made the car feel like it was part car, part carnival ride. The 2014 model tracks straight and true with zero drama all the way to a 15.2 second 1/4 mile. Stacking this up with the competition, the Regal is notably slower than the Cadillac CTS/ATS 2.0T and Volvo’s S60 T5 AWD; and a hair slower than the 3.7L Lincoln MKZ, Lexus ES 350 and Acura TL. Despite similar power figures, the Volvo ran to 60 nearly 7/10ths faster which caused me to question my numbers. However, a loaner provided by a local dealer confirmed my findings. The reason seems rooted both in the GS’ gear ratios and the more advantageous torque curve from Volvo’s funky 5-cylinder.

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-010

At $37,830 starting, $40,195 with AWD and $44,975 full-loaded, the Regal undercuts the Volvo S60 T5 AWD and Acura TL by a couple thousand across the board (comparably equipped) and is more than $5,000 cheaper than the Lexus ES depending on your configuration. The Acura TL is in its final year of production and is, as you would assume, outclassed by the Regal in most ways. The recently refreshed Volvo delivers better road feel and a slightly more premium interior at the expense of more cash and less grip. The Lexus ES suffers from soft springs, an uncompetitive interior and steep price tag.

Over 611 miles I managed a reasonable 22.1 MPG in the GS which bests the real-world numbers from the V6 competition but comes short of the turbo Caddy and Swede. Why do I keep coming back to Cadillac? Because as hard as GM has tried to keep Chevrolet, Buick and Cadillac from stepping on each other’s toes, the Regal GS is about the same price as the 2014 Cadillac ATS. It’s hard enough to go up against what is probably the second best vehicle GM has ever produced, but it is made doubly hard when there are so many combined Buick/Cadillac dealers. This means you’ll frequently find the Regal GS next to a sharp handling Caddy is on the same lot. Trickier still is the base Cadillac CTS which is slightly cheaper than a loaded GS, and, you guessed it: is often parked right next to the Buick.  Buick seems to have finally gotten the hang of being the middle child and in the process they have given not only Chevy owners but Volkswagen owners something to aspire to. That said, I’d be hard pressed to choose the Regal over an ATS 2.0T.

 

GM provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.67 Seconds

0-60: 6.7 Seconds

1/4 Mile:15.2 Seconds @ 93 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 22.1 MPG over 611 miles

Interior sound level at 50 MPH: 68.5 dB @ 50 MPH

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Buick Link 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Engine 2.0L Turbo 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Engine 2.0L Turbo-001 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-001 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-002 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-003 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-004 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-005 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-006 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-007 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-008 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-009 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-010 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-011 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-012 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-013 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Gauges 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Gauges-001 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Interior 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Interior-001 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Interior-002 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Interior-003 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Interior-004 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Interior-005 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Trunk 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Trunk-001

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Piston Slap: Norwegian Longroof Reformism? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/piston-slap-norwegian-longroof-reformism/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/piston-slap-norwegian-longroof-reformism/#comments Wed, 15 Jan 2014 13:01:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=697009 TTAC Commentator Sjalabais writes: Dear Sajeev, I am and have always been a car guy. Since I am an academic with two left hands and sausage fingers, my flavour have been indestructible 70s Volvos, of which I have owned a couple. Now I am a father and a bit cash-strapped, with the need for an […]

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TTAC Commentator Sjalabais writes:

Dear Sajeev,

I am and have always been a car guy. Since I am an academic with two left hands and sausage fingers, my flavour have been indestructible 70s Volvos, of which I have owned a couple.

Now I am a father and a bit cash-strapped, with the need for an occasional 7 seater. A Volvo V70 with rear facing extra seats has been voted down in the household assembly, I am thus looking for a blob-shaped car. My location is Norway, but my issue is recognisable for any car guy in this situation, I fear.

My problem is that I can only afford roughly ten-year old quality vehicles, or newer cars with awful reputations. The latter include 2004-2006 VW Touran and Opel Zafira, the former 2002 Honda and Toyota models. In between I find the rusting time bombs by Mazda and the remarkably substandard build quality Mitsubishi Space Wagon. A Previa or Grandis would be acceptable, though they are a bit on the large end of the scale and usually very expensive to buy and maintain.

The Toyota Avensis Verso comes attached with a halo and is priced accordingly. The same is true, to a lesser degree, with the Honda Stream. Both have tiny engines that suck the fun out of blob-shaped 7 seaters that comes so naturally with them. That’s why I have tended to focus my interest on strong, but ugly Mitsubishi Space Wagons. But their paint, chassis, engines, clutches and transmissions are dead at 10 years and/or 150000km driven.

So would it be advisable to go for a low quality car like the Mitsubishi that’s been refurbished by owners desperate to sell before the next big investment? Or should I pay more for an older, but more reliable and well-build Honda or Toyota?

Sajeev answers:

What a difficult question for someone who lives in America!

Actually no, because there’s one universal truth for any used car buyer: buy the used car with the most service history, the newest wear items (tires, brakes, etc.) and the most original body/interior you can find in your buying area.

Of course, nobody will blame you for avoiding a vehicle known for colossal engine/transmission failures, or anything else that might “rub” your family the wrong way.  So perhaps you must buy the cheapest of the cheap: perhaps a Honda/Toyota with high miles but an extensive service record is your best bet. Or maybe a low mile Mitsubishi/Ford/Renault/etc…who knows!

Time to punt: what say you, Best and Brightest?

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 

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