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Opel Australia Gone; Shutting Up Shop Immediately Photo:
 
 
Tim O'Brien | Aug, 02 2013 | 51 Comments

It is news that was perhaps inevitable, but GM German-brand Opel Australia has given up the struggle.

Today it has announced that it is to cease operations and begin immediately winding down its dealer network.

While undoubtedly a blow for employees here - it has a head office team of 15 - and for franchised dealers who have invested heavily in the brand, Opel simply has not found a sustainable foothold in the market.

Since arriving in the Australian market on the 1st of August 2012 - one year ago, plus one day - Opel Australia has sold just 1530 vehicles as at June 2013.

This through a network of 20 Opel dealerships.

It has barely bothered the scorer; Australian buyers just simply didn't "get" the notion of a sub-premium brand.

In February, at the launch of the Corsa, Astra and Insignia OPC models, Opel Australia boss Bill Mott said that the brand was "in Australia for the long haul".

Sadly, in this market, arguably the most fiercely contested on the planet, the willingness to keep pouring money into a brand that was stubbornly resistant to gaining any sort of meaningful foothold, evaporated sooner rather than later.

Mr Mott also said then, “Would we like to sell more cars? Of course we would,” but blamed a “a tactical firestorm” of a high Australian dollar and a market driven by price reductions.

Today, this is at the core of Opel Australia's announcement.

"In order to be competitive, Opel Australia would need to follow recent competitor price reductions, and significantly reposition the price of its core volume models," its statement to the market reads.

"These changes, combined with the continued investment required to ensure brand awareness, result in a business which is not financially viable for any of the parties involved."

It also says it is to begin analysis with Holden "regarding the potential for future Holden-badged niche product". Will we again see a Holden-badged Astra, perhaps even a Holden Astra OPC? Many will live in hope.

As for the other models in the Opel line-up, there can surely be no room under the Holden badge for the Insignia now that the Malibu has arrived; no room for the Corsa in a chock-a-block light car segment and, really, realistically, there never was room for this 'other' GM badge here.

Interestingly, the Opel Zafira was due to be launched next week.

That suggests a boat-load of Zafiras arriving without a home to go to. It also suggests that the decision to exit was not made here, but in other more distant boardrooms.

Does this suggest anything else for the Opel brand? Well known is that it has lost to the order of US$16billion in Europe since 1999, continues to lose sales in a dire European market and is struggling with overcapacity in its factories there.

If not for its subsidiary Vauxhall doing well in the UK, Opel's position would be even more tenuous. GM has since pledged €4 Billion in development funds, but clearly none earmarked for retaining the brand here.

For now, Opel Australia said it is "working closely with employees, dealers and suppliers to conduct this closure process in an orderly and responsible manner".

For Opel customers concerned they now have an abandoned orphan on their hands, Opel Australia assures them it will remain in close contact and "ensure all on-going obligations to these customers are met".

Holden will likely take over servicing, parts supply and warranty claims (Australian Trade Practices Law requires car makers to hold adequate parts-supplies, and to honour warranties and warranty periods, despite an exit from the market.)

Customers have been invited to contact the Opel Customer Assistance Centre on 1800 993 677 with any concerns or questions related to this announcement.

 
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