It may be hard to believe that a car manufacturer has been in existence for 150 years,
but that is the case for Opel. The German automobile company, founded by Adam Opel in 1862, is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year and looking back on a rich history that has seen war and celebrity, as well as looking forward to a more technically-advanced future in tough economic times.
One of the most testing times of Opel’s long history was during the second world war when its factories were destroyed. However, ex-Opel workers rebuilt the plant at Rüsselsheim and were able to get the first car off the production line as early as July 1946.
It’s not all been bad, though. Opel was also once synonymous with wealth: the first million-pound footballer, Trevor Francis, owned an Opel Manta Berlinetta and was the envy of the working man.
Today, the sports models take second place to more routine family cars. A wholly-owned subsidiary of General Motors since 1931, Opel models have been rebadged and sold in other countries by other companies; in the UK, for example, Vauxhall produces well-known Opel models like the Astra, Corsa, Insignia and Zafira.
Over the years, the company has also produced models like the Admiral Sport Cabriolet Hebmueller (1943), GT, Monza and Manta.
In 2012, Opel is still going strong and is currently investing in the development of innovative and fuel-saving engines and transmissions.
As recently as October 2012, Opel announced that it would be establishing a working group to focus on technology innovation, site development and the safeguarding of jobs in the city of Bochum and the North Rhine Westphalia region of Germany. Known as the Bochum Perspective 2022, this project aims to engage local leaders in new approaches and concepts to economic development.
It’s good to know that such a long-standing company can still promote exciting new initiatives, but necessity is the mother of invention. Times are hard globally and the car industry has not escaped the resulting challenges.
For Morpeth-based drivers keen on Opel cars, the nearest manufacturing plant in the UK is in Ellesmere Port, Merseyside, where the next generation Vauxhall/Opel Astra will begin development in 2015. For now, Vauxhall/Opel cars will continue to be manufactured in the UK although this is dependent upon continued sales.
The company will hope these sales will come through its wide range of passenger cars, from the Insignia to the compact urban runabout Agila. In 2013 the Opel Cascada is cautiously launching onto the market to help keep Opel challenging the market leaders in car manufacturing and prolong its distinguished history.
With 150 years already behind it, Opel may be able to afford a satisfactory smile, but it can’t rest on its laurels. It will need to continue innovating if it’s to celebrate another 150 years in 2162.