Following the May 18 2017 announcement of General Motors' withdrawal from South Africa, the future of the Opel brand, which was recently acquired by Peugeot Citroen internationally, seemed to hang in the balance, at least as far as our market was concerned. However, there is indeed a future for Opel in the post GM-era...
The Russelsheim-based brand will be under new distributorship as of January 2018, but not before GMSA launches the Crossland X family car to the market in November. Speaking at an event in Johannesburg, Bill Mott, Opel's director of international sales operations, announced that the Unitrans-owned Williams Hunt group had been appointed as the dedicated distributor to distribute and sell the Opel brand in South Africa next year.
The name Williams Hunt will be familiar to many of those who own Opels; the company has been a major Opel retailer for many years. However, it won't be a case of business as usual. Whereas GM now has approximately 130 dealers, most of which sell and service Opel products, there will 80 Isuzu dealers and 35 Opel dealers by the time the retail network rationalisation is finished – and the German brand's outlets will all be urban-based.
During this tumultous transition, General Motors will communicate with existing owners to inform them of where their Chevrolet, Isuzu and Opel products can be serviced as of January 1 2018. The Japanese manufacturer's purchase of GM's parts distribution centre and the US multinational's undertaking that it would honour all valid warranties until they lapse, in other words, at least until 2023, provide owners with further peace of mind.
"Opel has had great success in South Africa. Our customers can expect the same quality of aftersales support and no changes to existing warranties," Bill Mott added. "We will ensure that our customers receive outstanding sales and aftersales support as we continue to further grow in the South African market."
In 2016, Opel sales in Europe increased approximately 4% with over 1.6 million vehicles sold, representing the company's best year in terms of sales since 2011. Opel's market share grew in 12 markets, while sales grew in 18 markets.
Notably, 2017 will be the most active year in the history of Opel, with the introduction of the "7 in 17" model offensive. Never before did the car manufacturer launch that many new cars in one single year.
Over the past two years, Opel sales in South Africa have grown 9.6%, compared to an overall market decline of 15.5%.
Bill Mott added: "We view South Africa as an important market. We are confident that the brand will continue to grow from strength to strength globally, and here in South Africa, because of the solid foundation that has been built in the 80-plus years Opel has been here."
Meanwhile, GM will still launch the new Crossland X late in the second half of 2017, while Opel South Africa will introduce the Grandland X in 2018.