Saturday, May 30, 2009

Opel Goes its Own Way

Alfred P. Sloan (6th from right) in Russelheim. 1929.

Eighty years ago, Alfred P. Sloan travelled to Russelheim, Germany, to formalize the General Motors Acquisition of Adam Opel AG. Unlike Ford Motor Company, which had set up its own establishments overseas, GM acquired a number of companies -- including Opel, Vauxhall, and Holden -- to become a true multinational corporation by the end of the 1920s. The relationship was far from a happy one at times-- particularly during the years of WWII, when the German Government used the Russelheim plant to manufacture critical components needed for the conflict ( i.e. Ju 88 Bomber parts) -- but in more recent times, Opel was one of the brightest units within GM, and a place where talent was groomed before coming to Detroit. All that is now apparently over, the result of GM's inability to sustain Opel, and the intervention of General Motors and the parts manufacture MAGNA.

Opel workers embraced Adolph Hitler during the 1930s.

I was never a big fan of Opels when they were imported into the U.S. during the late 1960s and early 1970s, sold on the lots of Buick dealers. To me, there seemed to be something cheap about them, but I am sure fans of the brand would roast me if they could catch me right now for saying those criticisms. It also happened that when I had my Unfall last Friday night, the car that hit me was an Opel, so I still see that insignia as the hood of the Opel made impact on the side of my VW. Opel cars and I simply do not get along.

1973 Opel GT, in my opinion the best post-WWII Opel

As Opel goes its own way, however, I wonder if GM's contraction in the world marketplace, and specifically Europe, actually parallels America's loss in influence in economic markets overseas as we battle recession and unemployment at home. Government officials and economists project an upbeat end to our recession after the next several quarters , but I wonder if something more lasting and significant is happening that will affect future generations of Americans in their search for the American Dream.

No comments:

Post a Comment