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Opel to Build Buicks in Germany for US Market, Pull Out from China

March 31, 2014

General Motors’ Opel confirmed that it will be building a new Buick model for the United States at its plant in Ruesselsheim, Germany.

Production will begin at the “second half of the decade,” though the model to be produced is not yet specified. An announcement will be made in the latter part of the year.

General Motors said that it will invest 245 million euros ($336.62 million) to build the new model and and in turn help Opel’s profitability.

“With the investment in a new, additional model for Ruesselsheim, we will take another important step in our multi-billion-dollar model offensive with which we will pave the way for Opel’s profitable growth,” said GM President and Opel Supervisory Board Chairman Dan Ammann in a statement.

This is GM’s latest move to reinvigorate its struggling German brand. This follows the automaker’s decision to have a single designer leading both Buick and Opel. In 2013, Mark Adams was tasked to be the design head for both brands. He was the design boss for Opel before he became the design head for Cadillac and Buick in the United States.

GM will also be investing 4 billion euros ($5.2 billion) to revive Opel. The amount will serve as funding for the brand’s 23 new products and 13 new powertrains through 2016.

Ahead of the announcement, many are speculating on which Opel-built vehicle will be arriving into Buick showrooms in the near future. Some believe the new model will be either a new Cascada or Calibra, as both nameplates were registered by Opel to the U.S. Patent and Trademark office earlier this year. Others think a new crossover is in the works, since there were reports that Opel was developing a new crossover based on the Monza concept car.

Aside from the unnamed Buick model, two other Opel vehicles to be exported in the U.S. will be made at the Ruesselsheim plant. The first is the additional variant of the Opel Insignia mid-size sedan, the four other variants of which are currently built at the plant. GM has recently approved the production of the newest variant at the same factory.

The second is the Opel Zafira Tourer minivan, which Ruesselsheim will also be building in 2015.

The last Opel vehicle the Ruesselsheim factory built for the U.S. market was the Buick Regal, which shared the underpinnings of the Insignia. The Ruesselsheim plant produced the Regal for export when the latest-generation model debuted in 2010. Production eventually moved to Oshawa, Ontario, Canada in 2011 and continues there at present.

While Opel will again be exporting to the U.S., the brand will be pulling out from China. GM has confirmed that it will be discontinuing the brand in the PRC, a move that Opel CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann considers as overdue.

“It would have cost hundreds of millions of euros to raise awareness of the Opel brand and to expand the distribution network,” said Neumann. “Buick, however, is one of the market leaders in China and we plan to intensify our future collaboration, with several projects currently under examination.”

GM would stop Opel sales in China in 2014 and halt export in the country in 2015.

Pulling out the brand allows GM to prevent the overlap between Buick and Opel, as both brands compete for the same customers. In 2013, Buick sold 810,000 vehicles from its 650 stores in China while Opel only sold 4,365 units from its 22 dealers in the country.

Photo credit: Opel/ CC BY-NC

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