Today, General Motors sold its sad, middle-of-the-road European car brands Opel and Vauxhall to France’s sad, middle-of-the-road rival Peugeot-Citroën Group. One reason why is because GM’s Euro brands have been undesirable and unprofitable for decades. Another is Brexit.
The German Opel and British Vauxhall have been fully intertwined since 1979, and the two have been perpetual failures ever since, barring a few brief sunshine-soaked days in the ‘90s when Opel got its shit together. In the years on from then, though, the two sister brands have struggled to sell mid-price, mid-value cars to increasingly disinterested Europeans.
Now it’s all going to the hands of the French, which sell basically the exact same kinds of models as Opel/Vauxhall did, so everyone now expects job cuts and dead brands to follow. Opel/Vauxhall has been a soppy mess of an automaker, and GM has never really had any idea what to do with it.
What’s particularly sad, though, is that in spite of everything Opel/Vauxhall nearly got its act together, in the final moments before its sale. GM CEO Mary Barra said as much, as reported by the Associated Press:
GM Chair and Chief Executive Mary Barra said it was a “win” for both sides. “This was a difficult decision for General Motors but we are united in belief that it is the right one,” she told reporters in Paris.
Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, which caused a plunge in the value of the pound, weighed on the decision, she said. “Without Brexit, we would have reached the breakeven goal” at last in 2016 for the European business, Barra said.
Former British member of parliament and business secretary Sir Vincent Cable laid out just how bad things look for the Vauxhall side of this new business grouping post-Brexit in an interview on BBC Radio 4, as The Express notes:
“There is one big doubt, which is the future of the customs union, the single market arrangements. Car components have to go backwards and forwards across frontiers and they will require tariffs and checks.
“Vauxhall particularly is exposed to this, about 80 per cent of its exports are to the European Union, most of its components are.
“If you are a hard-headed car executive looking at the competitiveness of Britain versus German plants, Britain I’m afraid is going to slip down the ranking in future.” He said: “The Germans are going to lobby very hard to protect their own plants, the German government bringing pressure to bear on France — those two countries staying within the European Union — it tips the balance against the UK, regrettably.”
If either the German or UK arm is going to stick around in the wake of this sale, expect it to be the Germans.
As to official statements, Peugeot-Citroën gave “no specific reassurances” about not blowing Britain’s car brand into smithereens, as The Guardian reports.
I will point out that this is exactly what former PM David Cameron warned the UK about, specifically standing in front of a Vauxhall factory as he preached that Brexit would screw up the country in March 2016.
Well done, Britain. You shot your own dicks off.