PSA Group CEO Carlos Tavares will meet UK prime minister Theresa May to discuss the company’s intention to buy the money-losing Opel and Vauxhall brands from General Motors.
The planned talks must be construed as a clear indication that PSA’s intent to take-over GM’s European arms is serious and advanced. PSA, which comprises Peugeot, Citroen and DS, has already met with German chancellor Angela Merkel.
The talks would centre around whether PSA would commit to keeping Vauxhall manufacturing jobs in the UK at its Liverpool and Luton sites, as it seeks to secure key manufacturing deals post-Brexit. Vauxhall has around 4500 staff.
PSA has pledged to maintain Opel’s independence, honour existing collective labor agreements and continue to invest in all four of its German Opel sites until at least 2020, Bild am Sonntag reported recently, adding further pressure.
Opel also makes the Astra in Poland for domestic sales and exports to markets, including Australia, where it is badged as a Holden.
Given Opel/Vauxhall’s continuous losses in recent years and excess capacity at plants, layoffs seem on the cards should PSA take over. However, PSA’s motivation to buy Opel is clearly driven by desire to increase scale of production across its model portfolios.
Britain’s business minister Greg Clark will likely offer PSA similar guarantees to those he gave to Nissan, which operates a huge plant in Sunderland, including support for UK parts suppliers, training and research, and favourable trade deals upon renegotiation with the EU.
The reason why this is of interest to us is that Australian GM division Holden currently sells a rebadged Opel Astra, and is about to replace its iconic locally made Commodore with a reworked, rebadged and imported Opel Insignia.
Should PSA acquire GM’s European arms, the product would possibly no longer be available to Holden. One might envisage replacing the Astra with the Chevrolet Cruze hatch, but what would become of Commodore should Insignia access close?
Update: Here is a quote from Holden.
“GM remains committed to the Holden brand in Australia and we don’t expect changes to Holden’s vehicle portfolio. Right now we are focussed on ramping up Astra volume and preparing to launch the fantastic next-generation Commodore in 2018.”