Vauxhall-Opel has launched a massive, all-encompassing revival project aimed initially at “fixing Europe” and then launching itself into the world’s biggest export markets, first China and then possibly the US.
Carlos Tavares, CEO of the PSA Group that acquired Vauxhall-Opel last year, is convinced that despite a long history of unprofitability under former owner General Motors, the revived British-German concern can become “a true European champion”. Car customers’ appreciation for “German precision” will be used as a basis to build exports where PSA’s French marques might not do as well.
It will offer an electrified (battery or plug-in hybrid) version of every Vauxhall-Opel model by 2024.
The electric initiative will start in 2020 with four models: a battery version of the newly launched 2019 Corsa; the Ampera-e; a Grandland X plug-in hybrid; and an electrified van. PSA’s new and extremely comprehensive development plan for Vauxhall-Opel – revealed last week by CEO Michael Lohscheller, engineering director Christian Müller and design chief Mark Adams – introduces a new suite of production efficiencies aimed at achieving a 2% operating margin by 2020 and a 6% margin, considered the industry standard, by 2026.
The R&D centre inside Vauxhall-Opel’s giant Rüsselsheim HQ will be expanded to become a centre of excellence for the whole PSA Group in 15 key areas – including seats, future petrol engines, hydrogen research and US legislative requirements – while keeping its status as the home of Vauxhall-Opel design.
Its petrol engine work will include designing a new generation of units, fully capable of hybridisation, for the whole PSA Group. It will also design forthcoming platforms for the whole group’s light commercial vehicles.
New platforms will save money:
The decision to use just two highly flexible platforms instead of a previous nine is one of the main drivers of future profitability, Vauxhall- Opel chiefs claim. Platforms and out-of-sight mechanical parts account for around 60% of a car’s material cost, and using either the CMP (small) or EMP2 (larger) platform from PSA will save between 20% and 50% in development cost compared with previous platforms.
Engineering bosses have revealed that the new Corsa is at the 50% end of the savings scale – clearly because of its under-skin relationship with baby Peugeots and Citroëns – although Vauxhall-Opel bosses insist the car will “be very much a market leader in design and quality”.
Engineers say the EMP2 platform can support saloon, hatchback, estate, van, coupé and convertible models, with four different track dimensions, five wheelbases, two cockpit architectures and two rear suspension designs on offer. It can also accommodate very large wheels, a previous limitation.
Simplified engine range with electrification:
Vauxhall-Opel says its main powertrain focus will be meeting emissions targets. With PSA (but independent of the group at the time), it made the decision last year to comply with new engine exhaust regulations earlier than required. It now claims 79 of its models already comply ahead of time with forthcoming EU6d TEMP regulations, the toughest standards yet.
In future, all Vauxhall-Opel models will use just four engine families instead of a previous 10. Rüsselsheim will take global responsibility for designing and developing the PSA Group’s four-cylinder engines in the future. (One senior engineer let slip that a 1.6-litre four is coming soon, fully hybridised like the rest.)
Opels and Vauxhalls will also make good use of PSA’s highly rated family of PureTech three-cylinder engines.
Through PSA, Vauxhall- Opel will have access to a new, electrified eight-speed dual- clutch transmission – plus an even newer (and extremely light) hybrid ’box, called DT2, with an integrated 48V motor inside its housing both to provide drive or to recover energy when coasting.