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Opel returning to NZ, but not Australia

Entire line-up of German Stellantis brand will be eligible for NZ Clean Car rebates

29 Mar 2022

OPEL, the German brand that is now in the Stellantis fold since being offloaded by General Motors, will be reintroduced in New Zealand in a few months’ time – but Australian importers of Stellantis products have ruled out any Opel comeback on these shoes.


According to NZ-based website Driven, Auto Distributors NZ, the importers of Peugeot and Citroen models across the ditch, will relaunch Opel in July with a range of models, all of which qualify for rebates under the country’s government’s Clean Car Programme.


ADNZ will launch with the Astra small hatch in internal combustion engine (ICE) and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) guies, the Mokka compact SUV in ICE and battery-electric vehicle (BEV) forms and the Grandland medium SUV ith ICE and PHEV options, from July, the website reports.


Six Opel dealerships will open in NZ this year and that figure will increase to 11 in 2023.


Opel, which General Motors (GM) sold to PSA (Peugeot Citroen) in 2017, now forms part of the Stellantis Group – the world’s fourth-largest carmaker that includes marques from the Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) stable, as well as the pair of French brands. 


Repositioning itself as a low emissions/electrified brand, Opel has undertaken to offer an electrified version of each model by 2024 and sell only BEVs in Europe by 2028.


In that sense, the brand is well positioned to take advantage of the incentives included in the Clean Car Programme, which will come into effect on April 1. 


However, the Opel brand comes with considerable baggage. While the Russelsheim-based firm was owned by General Motors, the US multinational often devoted more resources to its Chevrolet-branded products and, at the nadir of the global financial crisis toward the end of the previous decade, GM openly considered offloading Opel to another group. 


GM previously sold Opels in NZ from 1989 to 1994 and as Holden-branded cars prior to 2020, when the latter brand was discontinued upon the automotive giant’s official departure from Australasia.


In Australia, GM infamously introduced Opel as a standalone marque in a Holden-obsessed market in 2012 and withdrew the brand due to the project’s abject failure in 2013.


Since then, several of the German brand’s products were sold as Holdens, but the Commodore ZB (a rebadged Insigina), which replaced the locally made VF model, drew much ire from both Holden die-hards and people disappointed by Holden’s exit and the actions of its parent company.  


Therefore, it is perhaps not surprising that Opel is unlikely to make a comeback in Australia, where some Stellantis brands are distributed by wholly-owned subsidiary FCA Australia based in Port Melbourne as well as independent importers Inchcape Australia and the Ateco Group that are both headquartered in Sydney.


When GoAuto asked the companies about the prospects of Opel returning under their auspices, Inchcape commented that it "would focus on Peugeot and Citroen only". 


A spokesperson for Ram and Maserati importer Ateco said they were not aware of any such development but that the company “would consider opportunities that came our way".


Meanwhile the Australian branch of Stellantis Group, FCA Australia, responsible for Jeep, Chrysler, Fiat, Abarth, Fiat Professional and Alfa Romeo was clear:


“No, Australia will not be re-introducing Opel. (We’ll) let you know if that changes,” said FCA Australia director of corporate communications, Tracie Stoltenberg.


However, Opel NZ brand boss Tom Ruddenklau told Driven the German brand was making its return with “(a) different company, (at) a different time, (in a) different era”. Indeed, none of the models slated for launch has been sold as Holdens in their current iterations. 


“We’re seeing a shift in consumer and industry attitude towards emissions. We’ve got the next phase of the Clean Car Discount happening in April, but we’ve also got something that’s going to have an even bigger impact: the Clean Car Standard [from 2023], which is going to put the cat amongst the pigeons for a lot of importers,” he was quoted as saying.


“Every single Opel, whether it’s petrol, plug-in or (pure) electric, is up for a rebate. Every single Opel is below 146g/km (the equivalent of 6.3 litres per 100 km). This brand does very well in markets where there is regulation around emissions; NZ is ready for Opel.”


Apart from the Astra, Mokka and Grandland, an all-new Corsa is coming to NZ in 2023.  Driven expects the light hatchback to be available in 1.2-litre petrol and BEV guises.

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