Good morning! Welcome to The Morning Shift, your roundup of the auto news you crave, all in one place every weekday morning. Here are the important stories you need to know.
1st Gear: What Happens To Buick
In recent years Buick has carried the torch of The GM Brand That Gets The Opels Foisted Upon It, taking over from Saturn and Cadillac before it. Like everything with Opel it’s been a mixed bag; you get crap like the Cascada, but newer stuff like the Insignia Tourer pictured above seem promising.
But Opel’s out of the GM picture for good, having been sold to France’s PSA Peugeot-Citroën. Where does that leave Buick?
According to a Detroit Free Press analysis, more depending on products designed and engineered in Asia. That was kind of happening anyway, but don’t expect this to be some great American brand comeback.
Europe is a challenging market. Customers expect the latest technology and features in small cars that sell at low profit. GM needed Opel when it relied on its European designers and engineers, but shifting sales, profits and technical resources mean the company may be able to get what Europe supplied from other, profitable, parts of the world.
GM will rely more on engineering and design resources in Asia. The learning curve must be steep, or the consequences will be grave.
Expect Chinese engineering and design centers to lead the development of most Buick passenger cars. Korea may become GM’s engineering center for compact and subcompact vehicles.
“GM’s Chinese and Korean tech centers will have to grow up really fast,” IHS Automotive senior analyst Stephanie Brinley said.
Less than 20% of Opel/Vauxhall’s future product line overlapped with GM’s global plan, adding to Opel’s costs and reducing the benefits the group brought GM. PSA builds similar vehicles and will switch Opel’s vehicles to its architectures, drivetrains and technology quickly.
2nd Gear: Three Questions
The Opel sale is a done deal, but it leaves these companies and brands with big questions to answer. For one, GM effectively abandoning Europe—which was a profit-killer lately anyway, so whatever—means that for pretty much the first time in a century the automaker’s sights won’t be on total world domination. There’s also the question of what the hell PSA can do to make Opel work. From that same Freep story:
What can GM accomplish without pouring resources into the high cost, low profit European market? Can it dominate the 21st Century’s boom markets: China, India and maybe South America?
[...] Can Peugeot leverage its new German brand for global growth that reduces its reliance on Europe? Could this self-styled “European champion” challenge the ailing Volkswagen Group for dominance at home? Is this the beginning of an era of greatness for the French auto industry?
Can Opel finally establish itself globally as a German prestige brand, a dream that eluded it under GM?
I don’t know, but I’d rather be the people selling Opel than the people buying it.
3rd Gear: Will Merge For Cash