Rebadging Opels as Buicks will eventually end. Then what?
Last week we learned that GM and PSA Group, which owns Peugeot and Citroen, were in advanced negotiations over the sale of Opel from the former to the latter. The Opel division, as you’re probably aware, has been GM’s star European division since 1947. So why is GM anxious to get rid of it? Because the European car market is insanely competitive, even more so than in the US, believe it or not. GM simply doesn’t need Opel anymore, especially since Opel has lost about $9 billion since 2009. So why does PSA want Opel?
Because, according to Automotive News, Opel could help it improve its market position in Europe thanks to the brand’s strength in certain markets where PSA is not, according to an analyst with Moody’s in a recent Bloomberg report. We’ll probably found out later this week whether or not a deal, said to be valued at around $2 billion, can be reached. In the meantime, we’re wondering what’s going to happen to Buick, a brand that relies upon a few rebadged Opels, specifically the Verano, Regal, Cascada, and the Encore, for its hot-selling lineup? Let’s break this down model by model: the Verano, a rebadged Opel Astra, has already ceased production for the US due to slow sales in the era of the crossover.
The LaCrosse sedan is already based on an existing GM platform. As for the most successful Opel-Buick model, the hot-selling Encore subcompact CUV, originally the Opel Mokka, don’t expect anything to change; the Encore isn’t going anywhere. Refreshed for 2017, the current generation will live out its lifecycle and will eventually be replaced by an all-new model that, like the new mid-size Envision CUV, will most likely be developed and even produced in China. The Cascada convertible dates back to 2013 and likely won’t be replaced once it’s discontinued, at least not right away. As for the Regal, its future remains uncertain. A complete redesign, based on the Opel Insignia, will soon debut, but it’s unknown at this point how long the new Regal will last.
What could end up happening, at least in the near term, is retaining the Regal status quo. Opel, under PSA, would simply continue building the Regal for GM, but only as long as it remains financially viable for both companies. Assuming the new Regal continues to sell well, then eventually we’ll probably see GM switch it to one of its own platforms. It could even become the corporate cousin of the Chevrolet Malibu. A redesigned three-row Enclave CUV, which never came from Opel, will debut in just a few weeks’ time, but it’ll share a platform with the just revealed Chevrolet Traverse. And so there you have it. Buick can very much survive and thrive without Opel, yet another reason why GM no longer needs to support a financially draining brand.