Opel Crosses Over: Common Platforms In, Common Sense Out

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
opel crosses over common platforms in common sense out

Since 2002 GM’s Compact Crossovers, like the Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Terrain and Chevrolet Captiva/Opel Antara have been built on a unique platform known internally as “Theta.” That platform, which debuted on Saturn’s Vue, was developed largely in Korea by GM-Daewoo, based roughly on GM’s Global Midsized (“Epsilon”) platform. Since 2002, Compact CUVs have become one of the fastest-growing segments in the US, and though GM’s Theta-based CUVs have sold well, the competition is moving towards mildly-modified C-segment platforms for Compact CUVs in order to use as many common components as possible, thereby lowering the cost of development and increasing manufacturing flexibility. Now, it seems that GM is following suit, dropping the Korean-developed Theta platform for a new generation of Compact CUVs developed by Opel on the Astra’s global Compact (Delta II) platform.

Opel Marketing boss Alain Visser tells Automotive News Europe that

The successor of the Antara, which we will bring to market in 2014-2015, will be based on our global compact architecture for the first time. The responsibility for this lies in our technical development center in Ruesselsheim. Thus we will insure that the Antara successor will be a very true Opel.

And it’s not just development that’s moving to Germany. Opel’s union boss Klaus Franz adds

The next-generation Antara could be built in Bochum, just like the Zafira, which uses the same architecture. We are mulling which investment would be necessary and how high the potential sales volume in Europe would be. At of 50,000 to 60,000 units a year, production in Bochum would be viable.

Given that the Captiva/Antara twins have lead the way for US-market Compact CUVs, expect the next generation of GM’s US C-CUVs to be similarly based on the global compact platform, just as Ford’s next-generation Escape will be for the Blue Oval.And that’s not all: Opel is also planning a Gamma II (B-Segment)-based “SUV” in 2012, moving it into a segment characterized by Ford’s Fiesta-based Fusion (Europe)/ Ecosport (South America). Between this B-segment SUV and the new Delta II-based Antara, Opel hopes to sell some 100k SUV/CUV models per year by 2015, and is considering a third CUV positioned above the Antara. According to VisserWe will start an SUV offensiveThe only problem: Opel’s SUV/CUV offensive coincides with GM’s plan to boost Chevy sales in Europe. And based on sales of the very similar Chevy Captiva and Opel Antara last year, Opel will lose, as the Captiva scored 25,880 sales to the Antara’s 9,147. When Europeans want an SUV/CUV, they clearly shop Chevy before Opel. So how will GM’s stagnant European division move 100k+ CUVs each year? By taking Opel global.

To achieve the sales goals, Opel will extend its global reach. It aims to sell 100,000 units outside Europe in the long term.

“We’ve just started in Israel,” Visser said. “Step by step we will export more cars to Chile, Argentina and other attractive growth markets in Latin America or the Middle East.”

For every rational move, like moving Comppact CUVs onto a a common compact platform, GM seems to come up with at least one more totally inexplicable move. In this case, the mystery is why GM is attempting to make Opel into a global brand. Selling Opels in China, where Opels with Buick badges sell like hotcakes, should have been the first sign that GM’s global brand strategy lacks strategy. Even GM’s ousted CEO Fritz Henderson knew that

Opel is a regional brand and I don’t see that changing. That doesn’t mean I’m closed to ideas about how it can be used elsewhere; but the measure of the Opel brand’s success will be Europe, because if you don’t win here all the discussion of exports will be irrelevant

Though Opel would likely engineer a more desirable C-CUV than Daewoo, crossovers alone won’t achieve the success needed in Europe, especially if Chevy is launching its own European offensive at the same time. And keeping Opel alive on exports will only create conflict between it and Buick, a clash we saw coming years ago. One step forward, two steps back…

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2 of 7 comments
  • Kristjan Ambroz Kristjan Ambroz on Mar 01, 2011

    Returning some respectable SUVs to the Opel brand might not be a bad idea - with their first foray into the area (Frontera, Monterrey - basically rebadged Isuzus) they managed to unseat the Mitsubishi Pajero, which was king of the hill up to then (and subsequently never again). The problem was that these grew so very long in the tooth that Chinese companies were already offering rip-offs in Europe while these were still being sold (with some very embarassing crash test results, which were probably not that different from what those Opel badged ones would get at that point). And the Antara was a completely inadequate replacement. It was several steps downmarket from the rest of the Opel line-up and not surprisingly, the otherwise equivalent but substantially cheaper Captiva outsells it almost 3 to 1. The Antara simply competes at a price point, where the competition is leagues ahead - something that a German developed replacement might correct. This is still not saying that expansion elsewhere makes for a sensible Opel strategy...

  • Alessandro Colombo Alessandro Colombo on Mar 01, 2011

    Hi, you forget that here in Europe Chevrolet, except from Corvette, is seen yet as low quality Korean Brand. The Captiva is mutch more attactive only for it's lower price.

  • Dusterdude The "fire them all" is looking a little less unreasonable the longer the union sticks to the totally ridiculous demands ( or maybe the members should fire theit leadership ! )
  • Thehyundaigarage Yes, Canadian market vehicles have had immobilizers mandated by transport Canada since around 2001.In the US market, some key start Toyotas and Nissans still don’t have immobilizers. The US doesn’t mandate immobilizers or daytime running lights, but they mandate TPMS, yet canada mandates both, but couldn’t care less about TPMS. You’d think we’d have universal standards in North America.
  • Alan I think this vehicle is aimed more at the dedicated offroad traveller. It costs around the same a 300 Series, so its quite an investment. It would be a waste to own as a daily driver, unless you want to be seen in a 'wank' vehicle like many Wrangler and Can Hardly Davidson types.The diesel would be the choice for off roading as its quite torquey down low and would return far superior mileage than a petrol vehicle.I would think this is more reliable than the Land Rovers, BMW make good engines. https://www.drive.com.au/reviews/2023-ineos-grenadier-review/
  • Lorenzo I'll go with Stellantis. Last into the folly, first to bail out. Their European business won't fly with the German market being squeezed on electricity. Anybody can see the loss of Russian natural gas and closing their nuclear plants means high cost electricity. They're now buying electrons from French nuclear plants, as are the British after shutting down their coal industry. As for the American market, the American grid isn't in great shape either, but the US has shale oil and natural gas. Stellantis has profits from ICE Ram trucks and Jeeps, and they won't give that up.
  • Inside Looking Out Chinese will take over EV market and Tesla will become the richest and largest car company in the world. Forget about Japanese.