Adam Opel AG, usually shortened to Opel, is a German automobile company founded by Adam Opel in 1862. Opel has been building automobiles since 1899, and became an AG in 1929. In late 2005, the company was transformed into a GmbH (PLC).
The company is headquartered in Rüsselsheim, Germany, and has been a wholly owned subsidiary of the American General Motors Company since 1929.
Opel has announced that it will invest around 11 billion Euros in the next five years. One billion of that is designated solely for the development of innovative and fuel-saving engines and transmissions.
The company was founded in Rüsselsheim, Hesse, Germany on January 21, 1862 by Adam Opel. At the beginning, Opel just produced sewing machines in a cowshed in Rüsselsheim. Above all, his success was based on his perfectly customized sewing machines. Because of the quick growth of his business, in 1888 the production was relocated from the cowshed to a more spacious building in Rüsselsheim. Encouraged by success, Adam Opel launched a new product in 1886: He began to sell high-wheel bicycles, also known as penny-farthings. Besides, Opel's two sons participated in high-wheel bicycle races and thus promoted this means of transportation. Therefore, the production of high-wheel bicycles soon exceeded the production of sewing machines. At the time of Opel's death in 1895, he was the leader in both markets.
The first cars were produced in 1899 after Opel's sons entered into a partnership with Friedrich Lutzmann, a locksmith at the court in Dessau in Saxony-Anhalt, who had been working on automobile designs for some time. These cars were not very successful and so the partnership was dissolved after two years, following which Opel's sons signed a licensing agreement with the French Automobiles Darracq S.A. to manufacture vehicles under the brand name "Opel-Darracq". These cars were made up of Opel bodies mounted on a Darracq chassis, powered by a 2-cylinder engine.
In 1901, Adam Opel separated from Lutzmann and signed a new contract with a Frenchman, Alexandre Darracq. The company first showed cars of its own design at the 1902 Hamburg Motor Show, and started manufacturing them in 1906, with Opel-Darracq production being discontinued in 1907.
In 1909, the Opel 4/8 hp model, known as the "Doctor's Car" was produced. Its reliability and robustness were greatly appreciated by physicians, who drove a lot to see their patients, back when hard-surfaced roads were still rare. The "Doctor's Car" sold for only 3,950 marks, about half as much as the luxury models of its day.
In 1911, the company's factory was virtually destroyed by fire and a new one was built with more up-to-date machinery.
By 1914, Opel had become the largest German manufacturer of motor vehicles.
In the early 1920s, Opel became the first German car manufacturer to incorporate a mass production assembly line in the building of their automobiles. In 1924, they used their assembly line to produce a new open two-seater called the "Laubfrosch". The Laubfrosch was finished exclusively in green lacquer. The car sold for an expensive 4,500 marks, (expensive considering the less expensive manufacturing process) but by the 1930s this type of vehicle would cost a mere 1,990 marks — due in part to the assembly line, but also due to the skyrocketing demand for cars. Adam Opel led the way for motorized transportation to become not just a means for the rich, but a reliable way for people of all classes to travel.
Opel had a 37.5% market share in Germany and was also the country's largest automobile exporter in 1928. The "Regent" — Opel's first eight-cylinder car — was offered. The RAK 1 and RAK 2 rocket-propelled cars made sensational record-breaking runs.
In March 1929, General Motors (GM), impressed by Opel's modern production facilities, bought 80% of the company, increasing this to 100% in 1931. The Opel family gained $33.3 million from the transaction. Subsequently, during 1935, a second factory was built at Brandenburg for the production of "Blitz" light trucks.
1935 was also the year in which Opel became the first German car manufacturer to produce over 100,000 vehicles a year. This was based on the popular Opel "P4" model. The selling price was a mere 1,650 marks and the car had a 23 hp (17 kW) 1.1 L four-cylinder engine and a top speed of 85 km/h (53 mph). Opel also produced the first mass-production vehicle with a self-supporting all steel body. They called it the "Olympia". With its small weight and aerodynamics came an improvement in both performance and fuel consumption. Opel receives a patent which is considered one of the most important innovations in automotive history.
In early 2009, the future of GM's German brand, Opel was thrown into uncertainty as the global financial crisis drove GM towards bankruptcy. New Opel (Opel plus Vauxhall, minus Saab), was controlled by a trustee, with a controlling board made up of representatives from GM, employees and the German Government; the company was subject to a bidding process.
Opel is one of the most traditional car manufacturers in Germany, and one of Europe’s largest automakers. The company operates 11 vehicle, powertrain, and component plants and three development centers in six countries, and employs around 40,000 people (as of December 2010). Many additional jobs are provided by some 5,000 independent sales and service outlets as a direct result of their business with the automaker. Opel and its sister brand in the U.K., Vauxhall, sell vehicles in more than 40 markets worldwide. The company's factory in Rüsselsheim has been transformed to one of the most modern plants in the world for €750 million and started production in 2002. The capacity is around 180,000 vehicles a year. Other Opel plants are in Bochum, Eisenach, and Kaiserslautern, Germany; St. Petersburg, Russia; Vienna/Aspern, Austria; Szentgotthard, Hungary; Zaragoza, Spain and Gliwice, Poland. Opel cars are also made in Vauxhall's Ellesmere Port and Luton plant in the UK. The Dudenhofen Test Center is located near the Rüsselsheim headquarters.
Also located in Rüsselsheim is the International Technical Development Center (ITDC) and the Opel Design Center. Around 6,300 people are responsible for the development and design of Opel vehicles. All in all, Opel plays an enormously important role in the global GM corporate group as it has for instance developed and engineered the Epsilon (I) platform, Epsilon II platform, Delta (I) platform, Gamma platform and played an important role in the development of especially the higher-end, more-refined versions of the Delta II platform and the Gamma II platform. In addition, the company is developing new manufacturing equipment for the global GM auto production.
So Opel is in most cases fully responsible for all the car architectures and technologies up to the Opel Insignia/Buick Regal/Buick LaCrosse. In particular, all the future-oriented, modern, full-efficient GM architectures for compact and midsize vehicles are developed by Opel in Rüsselsheim.
Even the idea and concept behind the Chevrolet Volt/Opel Ampera is rooted in Opel/Germany with Frank Weber, the former "Global Vehicle Line Executive and Global Chief Engineer electric vehicle development" and therefore leader of the Volt-development, being originally an Opel-employee who was moved to the USA in order to advance the development of this prestigious, revolutionary concept in GM's home country instead of the German outpost that is Opel. In 2009, Weber returned during the reorganization of the Opel leadership to Opel as "Vice President Planning and Commercial Vehicle Operations" for the company. In 2011, Frank Weber left Opel.
Opel established Opel Performance Center GmbH (OPC) in 1997, which is responsible for the development of high-performance cars of Opel.
Opel Special Vehicles GmbH (OSV) is a wholly owned subsidiary of Adam Opel AG which produces special series and undertakes vehicle modifications. Together with the ITDC, OSV developed the environmentally friendly and cost-CNG-drive concept based on natural gas (Compressed Natural Gas) and was first implemented on the Opel Zafira 1.6 CNG.
Karl-Friedrich Stracke is Chairman of the Management Board & Chief Executive Officer at Adam Opel AG since April, 2011.
Opel remains the second best-selling brand for GM worldwide recording a strong finish for the year. In 2010, its market share increased in 18 out of 27 European countries, including the UK, France, Italy and Spain. Opel was among the top three brands in eight European countries, including the two biggest markets, Germany and the UK. The Q4 market share of 6.25% represents an increase of almost 0.5 percentage points over Q4 2009 and an increase of 0.05 points over the 2010 Q1-Q3 average. It offers International and Diplomat Sales (IDS) to customers in international organizations, military, and diplomatic service.
Starting this year, the company will begin selling vehicles in China, Chile and Israel. In late 2011, Opel will also sell vehicles in South Africa, Argentinia and the Middle East.
Opel's corporate tagline is Wir leben Autos, meaning “We live cars”. The German-language tagline is used in many European countries.
What “Wir Leben Autos” means
The «Wir» (We) stands for the excitement and affirmative, positive attitude of the employees and dealers – a great starting point for the development of intelligent, surprising and innovative products they supply to their customers.
The word «leben» (live) embodies the high level of energy at Opel. It is a vitality which anyone who has experienced an Opel can feel through the variety of practical functions, exciting innovations and fascinating, dynamic design.
Finally, the «Autos» (cars) have become an essential part of their lives. They combine their personal experiences with that of their customers in order to make their daily mobility simpler and more comfortable.
From the beginning of production until 1930, the Opel models usually carried model-numbers such as 4 / 12 hp. The number before the slash was the tax horsepower, the number behind it was the actual performance in horsepower. Exceptions were the first Opel, which bore the name Patent Motor Car "System Lutzman", and the Opel Regent, from 1928 - 25 vehicles were produced.
This quite complicated system was replaced after the takeover by General Motors in 1931 by the given engine displacement (for example, 1.2 liters), which was kept only until 1937. An exception here was the Opel P4, whose name indicates it as a four-seater car . The name of the 1935 produced Opel Olympia was chosen in view of the Olympic Summer Games in 1936 and taken over by the following models.
From the late 1930s to the 1980s, terms from the German Navy (Captain, Admiral, Cadet), and from other official sectors (Diplomat, Senator) were often used as model names, from the late 1980s, the design names changed to ones ending in "A". The last series to be renamed was the Opel Kadett, which was renamed the Opel Astra taking the name that had been used on its English (Vauxhall) sister model since the Kadett D (1979–1984). The only exception to this naming was the built under license Opel Monterey. Similarly, the model names of the Transporter models ending with "O" (Combo, Vivaro, Movano, former Campo). Now models which do not have names ending in "A" have been re-introduced, such as the Opel Signum, Opel Speedster, even if many "A" models remain in production to date.
Many cars sold by GM worldwide are Opel engineered vehicles, including such models as the Astra, Corsa, Insignia and Zafira. Opel models are also sold under other GM brand names, such as Vauxhall in the UK, Buick in China and North America and Chevrolet in Latin America. Its Zafira people carrier was sold in Australia badged as a Holden Zafira. The Opel Blazer was a rebadged Chevrolet Blazer especially for Indonesia. The Opel Calais was a rebadged Holden Commodore especially for Malaysia. The Opel Corsa Utility was a rebadged Chevrolet Montana for South Africa only, but in 2010 this model was rebadged to Chevrolet Corsa Utility.