GM Holden's plans to source new models from its European affiliates could be under a cloud after news last night that PSA Group – the parent of Peugeot and Citroen – is in talks to buy its sister companies Opel and Vauxhall.
General Motors – owner of car brands Holden, Opel and Vauxhall – and France’s PSA Group each released a statement last night announcing they were “exploring numerous strategic initiatives aimed at improving profitability and operational efficiency, including a potential acquisition of Opel”.
While PSA said “there can be no assurance that an agreement will be reached” it is known that PSA and GM have been co-operating on projects since signing an alliance agreement in 2012.
If PSA does take control of Opel-Vauxhall, it would retain PSA Group’s position as the world’s ninth-biggest carmaker but come within a whisker of eighth-spot company Honda at an annual 4.3 million vehicles. PSA-Opel-Vauxhall would have combined annual sales, based on 2016 figures, of about 4.15 million vehicles.
The announcement is likely to be related to GM reporting its sixteenth consecutive annual loss in its European Opel-Vauxhall operations, although the launch of the new Astra improved sales and reduced the loss to $US257 million ($A335m).
It is unlikely that the move would upset short-term Holden supply deals
GM said that it would have had a neutral financial figure but was affected by the financial repercussions of Britain’s Brexit vote.
The PSA takeover of Opel-Vauxhall would affect Holden which is depending on the European factories to supply increasing numbers of models for its Australian network as it winds back its Australian manufacturing this year.
The Astra and the next-generation Commodore – based on the Opel Insignia to be launched in Europe at next month’s Geneva motor show – could fall under PSA control should GM sign over the factories to PSA.
But it is unlikely that the move would upset short-term Holden supply deals, as both PSA and GM would want to maintain volume and income from the factories.
Holden communications director Sean Poppitt said that GM remains committed to the Holden brand in Australia and Holden did not expect any 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,” he said.
Although details of any new ownership structure are under wraps, GM is highly likely to retain a large stake in the new-look European operation.
Since 2012, PSA and GM have worked together on new-vehicle projects in an effort to cut costs, even though GM sold its 7.0 per cent stake in PSA to the French government in 2013.
Two new Opel/Vauxhall SUVs are based on PSA platforms, including the small Peugeot 2008-based Crossland X that was revealed in January, and the 3008-based Grandland X mid-sizer that should be uncovered soon.
Opel-Vauxhall and PSA have suffered serious financial losses in recent years. PSA was bailed out by the French government and PSA’s Chinese joint-venture partner, Dongfeng Motor, which both acquired 13 per cent of the company in 2013.
It could well be Dongfeng that is pushing for the take-over as it is unlikely the French government or the Peugeot family – which owns 14 per cent of PSA – would bankroll an expansion into Opel-Vauxhall.