Opel stays and launches new models

The Opel brand will remain in South Africa, driven by a raft of new product starting with the Crossland X in the latter half of this year – with Williams Hunt taking over the exclusive distributorship of the product.

Opel South Africa, which still has to be formally structured as the separation from General Motors South Africa continues with the decision by the US company to end it operations locally, and this entity will be the importer and handle issues such as product planning, brand activation and the like.

From 2018, Williams Hunt will have 35 Opel dealers in play, not all of which will be owned by them according to divisional executive, Roy Pepper who adds: “Some will be franchised dealers.”

Williams Hunt has been an Opel partner in South Africa for many years contributing to some 20% of the sales. With this setup Opel plans to further grow in South Africa and strengthen brand and service to its customers.

The German car brand will launch the new Opel Crossland X in the second half of 2017 and the Opel Grandland X in 2018. Opel customers can expect a continued focus on strengthening the portfolio with new and exciting German-engineered vehicles that meet and exceed expectations.

“Opel has had great success in South Africa,” says Bill Mott, director of International Sales Operations.

“Many of our models have enjoyed great popularity among the buying public and have received rewards and acclaim from the motoring press. Just this year, the Opel Astra was the winner of the South African Car of the Year competition – a great indication of the brand’s ongoing success in this market.

“Opel customers can expect the same quality of aftersales support and no changes to existing warranties, and we will ensure our customers receive outstanding sales and aftersales support as we continue to further grow in the South African market.”

Opel is fast on its way to achieving its vision of becoming the number two passenger car brand in Europe by 2022.

In 2016, Opel sales in Europe increased approximately 4% with more than 1,6-million vehicles sold, representing the company’s best year in terms of sales since 2011. Opel’s market share grew in 12 markets, while sales grew in 18 markets.

Over the past two years, Opel sales in South Africa have grown 9,6%, compared to an overall market decline of 15,5%.

“We view South Africa as an important market. We are confident the brand will continue to grow from strength to strength globally, and here in South Africa, because of the solid foundation that has been built in the 80-plus years Opel has been here,” says Mott.

On the downside, it seems the Chev Utility that started life as the Opel Corsa bakkie will not be rebadged and Opel and will not be taken up for continuation by any of the players in this complex scenario.

Decisions taken by General Motors in the US to divest themselves of any business not making financial sense were triggered by the sale of Opel to the PSA Group in France (Peugeot) and followed by withdrawing from countries such as South Africa and India.

While Peugeot now actually owns Opel, the South African scenario is – as usual, bless us – unique in that there will be no association between Peugeot and Opel with the two brands operating independently of each other.

Peugeot Citroën South Africa sold a majority stake to Japan-based company VT Holdings, meaning that it is no longer a wholly owned subsidiary of the PSA Group.

VT Holdings, which is listed on the Tokyo Stock exchange, has been in the automobile industry for some 34 years, distributing vehicles in five countries.

The holding company officially acquired a 51% stake on June 1, with Peugeot Citroën South Africa saying the joint venture “allows the Peugeot brand to strengthen its position in South Africa through an upgrade of the entire value chain”.

“It is time to move forward in creating a new and exciting vision, one that produces even greater opportunities to our employees, dealers and most importantly to our customers,” said Francis Gaie, the new managing director of  the local operation.

“We have new developments planned around products, aftersales and parts which we are confident will result in greater efficiencies, increase our market share and strengthen our position in the South African market place,” he added.

In Europe, there will be considerable interaction between the two brands in terms of vehicle platform sharing, engine and drivetrain technology collaboration among them – in fact, the soon to be launched Crossland X is powered by a Peugeot-derived engine.

The Grandland X, due for release next year, is a joint development between Opel and Peugeot and could well feature a version of the Prince engine – the company name for a family of straight-4 engines developed by PSA Peugeot Citroën and used by BMW.

The current Peugeot 208 uses this technology.

Ia n Nicholls, president and managing director of General Motors Sub Saharan

Africa, is in charge of overseeing the GM withdrawal but says, “This announcement by Opel is based on a solid foundation that will be ideal for its new journey in Africa.”

Chev Lumina – big, bold and brash

Driving the new restyled Chevrolet Lumina SSV sedan was not going to be an easy job for Fleet in that, the intention was to specifically emulate the conditions the average company car user would encounter on a daily basis during a work week as well as over a weekend’s worth of leisure time – without simply saying a mental ‘to heck with it’ and pushing the hooligan button.

Proudly, we can affirm all objectives were met – during which time we gained newfound respect for a brutish muscle car that is ‘in your face’ and yet has a side so gentle it could be a character in a Mills & Boon romance novel.

General Motors South Africa (GMSA) introduced some subtle changes to the Chevrolet Lumina SS sedan for 2011 that included upgrades to the vehicle’s specification and changes to the exterior and interior styling of both vehicles.
The front of the Lumina now features a revised bumper and air dam as well as new styling treatments for the fog lights and headlamps. A chrome strip is added to the boot lid just above the number plate on the sedan while a more subtle change is the addition of a V to the nomenclature changing the model designation from SS to SSV to bring the South African models in line with naming of other V series vehicles in the Lumina range.

Significant revisions have been made to the instrument cluster and the centre console of the Lumina. The audio system has been upgraded to include a USB socket and advanced Bluetooth functionality – including mobile phone connectivity. The system features satellite controls on the steering wheel and touchscreen controls via the audio display screen.

The Lumina’s 6,0-litre V8 all aluminium engine remains unchanged with a maximum of 270 kW and a massive 530 Nm of torque driving the rear wheels via either a 6-speed manual transmission or a 6-speed automatic gearbox, as was the case with our test car.

The Lumina SSV sedan comes standard with leather seats, dual zone climate control air-conditioning, power windows and side mirrors, sports contoured seats with 4-way electronic adjustment and lumbar adjustment for the driver’s seat and sports alloy pedals. A driver information centre in the instrument cluster provides trip, vehicle and audio information.

Safety features include a six air bag system, including roof air bags, as well as an anti-lock braking with Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD) and Electronic Stability Programme (ESP). Traction control and cruise control are fitted across the range. Handling is enhanced by the advanced linear control suspension system.

Central locking with auto-lock is a standard feature as is an alarm immobiliser system. The alarm system includes a panic alarm.

Generously spacious inside, handsome and robust, the Australian-built car (Holden Commodore over there) offers a useful alternative to more expensive European derived options with similar power and torque and, besides its effortless performance it boasts a massive 496-litre boot.

Whether commuting to the office or hauling down the highway, the Lumina SS displayed a benevolent duality – one part effortless sedan cruiser, the other half, pure four-door muscle car.

Unquestionably, the six-speed auto is superior to the manual version in traffic, GM’s active on demand fuelling technology runs the Lumina SS auto on only half its eight cylinders when things slow down to crawling pace.

The transition from 4-cylinder to 8-cylinder is practically instantaneous and the driver has to really concentrate to try to pick up the lag between throttle input and all-power output.

Thanks to six-engine mountings (instead of four) vibration is well damped, meaning the rewards of a characteristic V8 burble, a gluttony of performance and none of the vibration issues usually associated to sitting behind such a large capacity engine.

There is no question the Lumina SSV is a big….huge…car, so initial impressions tend to suggest it would not be all that nimble through the twisties. Not true. The slightly oversize steering wheel, sort of reminiscent of the ones on cars of yesteryear, feels a little strange at first, soon qualifying its existence as the pace picks up.

With all-wheel independent suspension the Lumina turns into corners with minimal body movement, always seems firmly planted on the road and returns plenty of useful information via the steering to the driver.

The electrickery on board keeps things honest and prevents lurid slides or ‘donuts’ when the loud pedal is pushed too hard, too quickly. Confidence in this system and the response directly from the car mean it can be pushed at pace on most back roads.

However, as mentioned, the intention was not to adrenalize – and we justified out week with the car with an overall consumption of 12,9 l/100 km and managed one highway run getting down to 8,5 l/100 km with the speedo needle glued to 120 km/h.

It is big, bold and brash, but the Lumina is also more car than that suggests.

Courtesy: Fleet magazine