While negotiations continue over the potential takeover of General Motors’ (GM) European division by the PSA Group, indications are that some Opel dealers are already getting nervous and considering defection to other brands.
According to Wirtschaftswoche, numerous dealers across Opel’s European network are already courting other OEMs such as Ford, suggesting they have concerns over the future viability of the Opel brand in an expanded PSA Group. The article also suggests that large fleets have approached Ford’s European headquarters in Cologne to see if and how quickly they could honour existing Opel delivery agreements as a contingency should deliveries be derailed by the merger. Ford is of course a key competitor to Opel, especially in fleet sales, and stands to gain the most from any defection from private and fleet customers as well as dealers.
However, the Opel dealer defection claims have been refuted by Roman Still, a spokesperson for the board of AVAG in Augsburg, Germany’s largest Opel dealer group. Talking to Automobilwoche, Still said: ‘I see rather chances for a closer cooperation.’ From his point of view though, what is most important is that ‘the whole thing is quickly decided.’
Early reports suggested that the Opel takeover would be concluded before the Geneva Motor Show, which opens on 9 March, but PSA has since denied this date and GM CEO Mary Barra has been non-committal in confirming progress.
The longer it takes to finalise the deal of course, the more uncertainty creeps in and speculation such as this will arise. Moreover, PSA’s core Peugeot and Citroën brands and GM’s Opel/Vauxhall division all operate in the same squeezed middle ground between buoyant premium players and burgeoning brands such as Hyundai and Kia. There would be clear economies of scale benefits but it is difficult to envisage how a combined PSA-Opel would gain volume and consumers and dealers alike are rightfully unsettled.
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