Patience key to riding out PSA-Vauxhall takeover storm

  20 February 2017

Another day, another part of the PSA-Opel takeover story reveals itself. For some non-trade media, PSA’s offer to General Motors to take Opel off its hands came as a surprise. For those with more in-depth knowledge of the American OEM’s European business it was more a case of a ‘not if but when’ scenario.

It’s common knowledge that Opel’s balance sheet has been a cause for concern for some time. However, it’s fair to say that the current economic climate in Europe – yes, that includes the Brexit factor – has no doubt encouraged PSA to make what remains a bold move.

And while much ink has already been spilled and bandwidth consumed by the media talking about factory-based jobs, it’s been surprisingly quiet on the retail side of things.

Vauxhall retailers will, predictably, be asking themselves how the current situation will affect them. In truth, no one really knows – yet. Just like the workers at Luton, any concerned retailer would like an answer pronto. Sadly that’s unlikely to happen.

But the current state of affairs does raise some important issues. Will there be a period of retailer consolidation? After all, you can expect the bean counters to question the merits of having a Vauxhall and a PSA retailer in close proximity if model lines will be rationalised. Also, will you – the Vauxhall retailer – still view a PSA outlet as a direct competitor when the smoke clears?  

To answer these questions, and more besides, I reckon everyone will have to be extremely patient. I say this because the Volkswagen Group has been through a similar brand alignment programme following the inclusion of Skoda and Seat to the family. 

It has, however, taken years – decades, even – to reach where it is today. From cultivating differential brand images and marketing strategies to absorbing different platforms, factories and working cultures, it’s been a slow, methodical progress not without a few hiccups on the way. Oh, and it’s cost a whole heap of cash.

How will Vauxhall fare? Certainly the manufacturing side doesn’t look great, but from a retailer’s perspective I’d be hoping for a clear, consistent message from GM, Opel, PSA and the politicians to bolster any wavering consumer trust. Until then, it’s a case of keep calm and carry on selling.

Iain Dooley

Editor, Agenda

Auto Retail Network

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