GM Plans Opel Flagship As "Technological Spearhead" (Or XTS Rebadge?)

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
gm plans opel flagship as technological spearhead or xts rebadge

With Opel planning to pull itself into the black within the year, the brand’s thoughts are turning from survival to “luxuries” like a flagship model planned for around 20k units starting in the 2016-2017 timeframe. Codenamed “TOL” for “Top Of Line,” the sedan will be designed to highlight one of GM’s many alt-drivetrain technologies, but according to Automotive News [sub], nobody yet seems sure which. Opel labor rep and recent champion of the brand’s forthcoming products Klaus Franz explains:

Already with the our Ampera electric vehicle, we have shown what we are able to do and enjoy an advantage of two to three years compared to the competition

But with the TOL is planned for 2016, Opel may have to dig deep to jump out ahead of the market, which is why a fuel cell-powered electric drivetrain is being considered (also, after decades of FCV research, GM has to build a production model someday). And if the eventual product has a truly ahead-of-its-time drivetrain, and looks as good as last year’s Flextreme Concept (above), this flagship could be an exclamation point on Opel’s turnaround. Unfortunately, neither of these things are a given…

Let’s start with the looks: according to AN [sub]:

In May, Opel CEO Karl-Friedrich Stracke said the company was mulling a new flagship model that would improve the brand’s image. He told a Germany’s Welt am Sonntag newspaper that the car would be a crossover between SUV and station wagon, with an attractive design, high functionality and premium features.

Which means the flagship could come out looking like the 2007 Flextreme concept instead of the low, sleek, coupe-ish looks of the 2010 Flextreme. Don’t the Opel boys remember what happened to Renault when it tried to build flagships in the shape of vans and station wagons? The Avantime and Vel Satis were wild and funky looking cars, but even the French understand that the luxury market is wildly conservative.

And speaking of wildly conservative, Franz’s comment that the TOL’s drivetrain would be “years” ahead of the competition should probably be taken with a grain of salt, especially in light of another comment he made:

The workers representatives will support this project to the fullest. A flagship like this can only be built on the Epsilon 2 architecture with long wheelbase. We will do everything to build this car at our headquarters in Ruesselsheim, rather than Mexico or elsewhere

An alt-drivetrain “flagship” based on a stretched version of the Epsilon II platform? Where have I heard of that before? Oh right, Cadillac’s XTS “phantom flagship,” a stretched Epsi-II sedan with a plug-in hybrid V6 drivetrain (at least eventually). But the XTS is going to market next year as a 2013 model… and if the Opel were just a re-skin of the Cadillac, there would be no reason to wait until 2016. Not only would an XTS derivative not be “years ahead of the competition” if it launched in 2016, it would be three years behind Cadillac, which (like Chevy) GM is pushing in Europe.

So, will the TOL end up an XTS rebadge or will the three extra years go into developing a legitimately unique drivetrain, possibly a fuel-cell job? It’s too early to tell yet, but one thing is certain: either way, Opel’s stretched Epsilon-II “flagship” won’t come to the US as a Buick for fear of cannibalizing the XTS. Which will just go to show that the XTS should have been born a Buick in the first place.

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2 of 9 comments
  • Max So GM will be making TESLAS in the future. YEA They really shouldn’t be taking cues from Elon musk. Tesla is just about to be over.
  • Malcolm It's not that commenters attack Tesla, musk has brought it on the company. The delivery of the first semi was half loaded in 70 degree weather hauling potato chips for frito lay. No company underutilizes their loads like this. Musk shouted at the world "look at us". Freightliners e-cascads has been delivering loads for 6-8 months before Tesla delivered one semi. What commenters are asking "What's the actual usable range when in say Leadville when its blowing snow and -20F outside with a full trailer?
  • Funky D I despise Google for a whole host of reasons. So why on earth would I willing spend a large amount of $ on a car that will force Google spyware on me.The only connectivity to the world I will put up with is through my phone, which at least gives me the option of turning it off or disconnecting it from the car should I choose to.No CarPlay, no sale.
  • William I think it's important to understand the factors that made GM as big as it once was and would like to be today. Let's roll back to 1965, or even before that. GM was the biggest of the Big Three. It's main competition was Ford and Chrysler, as well as it's own 5 brands competing with themselves. The import competition was all but non existent. Volkswagen was the most popular imported cars at the time. So GM had its successful 5 brands, and very little competition compared to today's market. GM was big, huge in fact. It was diversified into many other lines of business, from trains to information data processing (EDS). Again GM was huge. But being huge didn't make it better. There are many examples of GM not building the best cars they could, it's no surprise that they were building cars to maximize their profits, not to be the best built cars on the road, the closest brand to achieve that status was Cadillac. Anyone who owned a Cadillac knew it could have been a much higher level of quality than it was. It had a higher level of engineering and design features compared to it's competition. But as my Godfather used to say "how good is good?" Being as good as your competitors, isn't being as good as you could be. So, today GM does not hold 50% of the automotive market as it once did, and because of a multitude of reasons it never will again. No matter how much it improves it's quality, market value and dealer network, based on competition alone it can't have a 50% market share again. It has only 3 of its original 5 brands, and there are too many strong competitors taking pieces of the market share. So that says it's playing in a different game, therfore there's a whole new normal to use as a baseline than before. GM has to continue downsizing to fit into today's market. It can still be big, but in a different game and scale. The new normal will never be the same scale it once was as compared to the now "worlds" automotive industry. Just like how the US railroad industry had to reinvent its self to meet the changing transportation industry, and IBM has had to reinvent its self to play in the ever changing Information Technology industry it finds it's self in. IBM was once the industry leader, now it has to scale it's self down to remain in the industry it created. GM is in the same place that the railroads, IBM and other big companies like AT&T and Standard Oil have found themselves in. It seems like being the industry leader is always followed by having to reinvent it's self to just remain viable. It's part of the business cycle. GM, it's time you accept your fate, not dead, but not huge either.
  • Tassos The Euro spec Taurus is the US spec Ford FUSION.Very few buyers care to see it here. FOrd has stopped making the Fusion long agoWake us when you have some interesting news to report.