Opel CEO Working On Plan For Electric-Only Brand As GM And PSA Explore Deal

Converting over to an electric car only brand is an option being explored by Opel’s chief executive as the European automaker braces for General Motor’s possible sale of Opel to PSA Group.

Opel CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann has been putting a plan together to go this route if necessary, reported German monthly Manager Magazin. He’d been working on the strategy for months as an option for Opel’s survival as a GM board vote was coming up in May, company sources told the magazine.

Neumann had been aware parent company GM was in talks with French automaker PSA about a possible sale of Opel and its UK sister brand Vauxhall.

The Opel chief is concerned that the GM subsidiary wouldn’t have the resources in place to manufacture both internal combustion engines and electric drivetrains, according to the report.

The all-electric Opel Ampera-e’s electric drive architecture, which comes from the Chevrolet Bolt, could be used in other electric vehicles, the magazine reported.

If Opel were to go the electric-only route, the automaker would be divided into an “old” and a “new” Opel until the strategy to end sales of ICEs came to a halt by 2030, said the published report.

Opel operates in a market driven by increasing regulatory pressure related to Volkswagen’s diesel emissions scandal; and competition as VW, Daimler, and BMW announced ambitious plans to roll out several new plug-in vehicle models over the next decade.

The concept of an “electric only” brand is becoming more palpable as automakers see how much interest Tesla has gained in global markets, and by how well Chinese automaker BYD is doing in sales. Daimler is preparing to roll out another electric sub-brand, which was named EQ last fall, and has decided to make its Smart division electric-only in the North American market.

The Opel version of the second-generation Chevy Volt may come to the European market. The first-generation Volt, or Opel Ampera, had been pulled from the market in 2015 due to weak sales. Spy photos were seen last year of the Chevy Volt being developed for Europe, indicating the Ampera could join the Ampera-e in the European market.

SEE ALSO:  First Opel Ampera-e Deliveries Set For Spring 2017

PSA Peugeot Citroen could support the new Opel venture if the acquisition were to go through, as it braces for more pressure to reduce emissions.

The French automaker has been revealing plans to roll out an electric vehicle built on its small-car CMP modular platform for compact and city vehicles. That would be in partnership with Chinese automaker DongFeng Motors, the company said.

The company said it’s planning on a 2019 simultaneous launch in Europe and China, with four Peugeot, Citroen, and DS electric models available in 2021.

Opel executives have been in shock over the announcement Tuesday that GM and PSA were holding strategic discussions that could lead to the acquisition, according to the German news publication. Neumann may have been the only senior executive who knew about it earlier, the report said.

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