Peugeot is negotiating with General Motors the possible purchase of its European operations, namely Opel and Vauxhall. It can be a positive thing for all brands and groups involved. From increased production capacity to shared investments in R & D, there are many advantages to that.
Of course, it can also have a negative effect. PSA already suffers from an oversized production capacity. Adding the Opel and Vauxhall factories to the French group would only make that situation worse. And we all know that that means shutting down factories if you do not get them to turn over 70% of their capacity. It is not new, the history of Peugeot and the PSA group is full of acquisitions of brands and their assets, which today no longer exist. What will be next?
Peugeot is a family business – most of the actions of the PSA group remain in the hands of the Peugeot family – created in the early nineteenth century. It all started with a mill in the village of Sous-Cratet that two Peugeot brothers adapted for steel works in 1810. Since then they have been associating with other companies, buying others and reaching agreements in various branches of activity. When they jumped into the car, alliances were inevitably forged and other brands were bought. Some are no longer there.
In France, after the first oil crisis in 1973, many brands experienced serious difficulties. In France, for example, Renault, then a state-owned company, remained in its position. Peugeot, meanwhile, managed to stay afloat and be profitable, while Citroën pays for its risky strategic decisions: the Citroën GS birotor and the Wankel engine, in general do not have the success expected by the brand; Maserati and the coupe SM are costing Citroën too much money, and finally the Citroën range is starting to age seriously (2 hp and DS).
Citroën has all the numbers to go bankrupt and Michelin, owner of Citroën since 1935, does not want to invest in the brand anymore. Peugeot decides to buy the brand from Michelin, its objective is not to fall into the hands of the French state via Renault or fall into foreign hands. Peugeot buys Citroën to ensure its own survival . Before another brand makes the competition on their land, Peugeot is dropped. Even so, Peugeot ends the purchase of Citroën in 1976. Thus, the combined production volume of Peugeot and Citroën is equivalent to that of Renault and in passing the Michelin family becomes the second shareholder of Peugeot.
Citroën continues today in the PSA group, but I wonder until when. Since Peugeot took over Citroën, most Citroën models were Peugeot clones. From the Peugeot 104 / Citroën LN to the most recent Peugeot 106 / Citroën Saxo, the differences in the lower area of the range were minimal. It is true that in the mid-range, the differences were more noticeable, at least in terms of aesthetics and timid technical level, such as the duo Peugeot 306 / Citroën ZX. At least in the top of the range Citroën could still be original (Citroën Xm, C6 and C5).
Today, with technical advancement made in shared technical platforms, the aesthetic differences between Citroën and Peugeot are much more remarkable, but almost every Peugeot model conflicts with one of Citroën and vice versa. For example, the Peugeot 308 is a direct rival of the Citroën C4, In Citroën seemed to have found the solution with the DS seal. However, DS is now a separate brand that carries with it much of the history and brand image of Citroën.
The gossips, especially in France, ensure that the Peugeot family prefers tosacrifice any brand of the group before leaving that bears his name. Maybe. It may even make sense. However, it is not so. Citroën is reinventing itself with more playful, daring and aesthetically original models, such as the C4 Cactus or the new C3.
It is true that in other respects, such as traditional saloons, Citroën continues as it can with the C5, while Peugeot has the 508. But it is also true that Citorën holds a dominant position in the segment of minibuses with the C4 Picasso and Grand C4 Picasso, as for its clone, the Peugeot 5008 had a virtually figurative role in front of the Citroën (will have to see how it does now that has become a crossover).
That said it is still true that DS has touched the role of technical originality especially with suspensions – and the premium appearance, once inseparable Citorën values. Come on, Citroën has not made it easy. Given the precedent of Citroën, what role will Opel have?
Rootes and Talbot
GM’s European operations in Europe are more than just Opel, they also include Vauxhall. Vauxhall is a historic British brand bought in 1925 by General Motors. Until the late 1960s it still produced and developed its own models that were exported outside the UK, mainly to Ireland and Northern Europe (Holland, Denmark, etc.). But since the mid-1970s, the Vauxhalls sold in the UK and Ireland are simply the Opel with right-hand drive.
The British are apprehensive about PSA’s possible purchase of Opel / Vauxhall. Would the two Vauxhall factories in the UK be maintained? Will the brand continue to exist? And is that the British still remember what happened to the brands of the group Rootes when PSA bought them from Chrysler.
At first, it does not seem like a good idea for Peugeot. Sochaux’s signature has just completed the Citroën purchase in 1976 – which allows it to have a production volume similar to that of Renault (1.5 million cars a year) – and only two years later it buys a series of disparate brands whose Results are also very different.
Gathering them all under the resurrected Talbot, without really new models to propose because of lack of investment (the crisis of 1979 passed by) to finally charge Talbot in 1982, was not the best idea of Peugeot. The British can not avoid it, if Vauxhall passes under control of Peugeot, the historic mark could disappear. Unless, after Brexit, it is kept alive to feed the local market so far. I’m sure that possibility is in the minds of Carlos Tavares, CEO of PSA. But before, we will have to see if the purchase is made or GM is withdrawn at the last minute, as it did in 2013.