GM is divesting itself of Vauxhall and Opel brands, and talk is it will start marketing its US brands into Europe. This may be little more than the gasp of a dying titan.When Don Mclean sung “I took my Chevy to the levy, but the levy was dry” not all Europeans understood the words. You could of course sing “I drove by Vauxhall Astra too the water reservoir, but the reservoir showed depleted water levels’ but the rhythm may not be quite right.
Now GM, the company that needed a bailout from the Obama government a few years ago, is to sell Opel, complete with the UK arm, Vauxhall, to French company PSA – the firm behind Peugeot and Citroen.
Opel has been making losses for years, although funnily enough, when GM tottered, eight years or so ago, Opel was described as one of the safer parts of the business.
PSA made a profit of £1.09 billion the first half of 2016. GM’s net income in Q4 was $1.8 billion.
Words coming out of GM on what this means for the workers at the plants in Luton and Ellesmere Port in Cheshire are vague. The Business Secretary Greg Clark has been busy meeting top people at GM and PSA, but all we have so far are vague assurances, wrapped in uncertainty.
Talk is that GM will start selling its US brands in Europe.
So, that means the Buick, and Chevrolet – the Chevy – into Europe.
Whether GM’s big US cars will prove a hit on the UK’s crowded roads is a moot question.
But there is a wider point, we are on the verge of entering the era of autonomous cars, and seeing convergence with the sharing economy.
The rise of autonomous cars will hit the car industry in much the same way that the rise of horseless carriages hit the horse business 100 years or so ago.
And while this will create new opportunities aplenty, the traditional car industry will be transformed out of all recognition, it won’t necessarily die, but it will mean we can say ‘bye, bye to Miss American pipedream’ of a return to traditional industries.