Thanks to one of my confidential sources associated with Groupe PSA I now have a complete understanding of Groupe PSA’s intentions – with regard to the Opel and Vauxhall brands.
The initiative has the catchy title of PACE, and I have studied the confidential presentation presented to the Groupe PSA Board by PSA CEO Carlos Tavares (left) and Opel CEO Michael Lohscheller.
The PACE project presents very ambitious goals for PSA’s new acquisition, and starts with the statement that PSA considers that despite decades of losses, the Opel and Vauxhall marques are powerful brands, and despite Holden’s plans to end the supply contract in six years, PSA intends to breed an entire line of vehicles wearing Opel/Vauxhall badges; and to create a new range of electric vehicles – all of which will be built on PSA architectures.
It’s not that I think the PSA goals are unachievable, but following the news that the Opel facility at Russelsheim in Germany is suffering a ‘brain drain’ of topline design and engineering executives, it appears that the German facility’s ability to design and engineer new platforms could be severely diminished.
This is especially concerning after the Powerpoint presentation included a slide boasting that all new O/V vehicles would be engineered in Russelsheim!
Reuters reports that a ‘significant number’ of key executives have departed Opel, some for jobs at rival carmakers like BMW AG, and others to key automotive companies involved in component supply.
Andreas Zipser, the chief engineer for the Insignia flagship model left Opel after a 25 year career, and has joined Veritas AG, an automotive supplier.
Ms. Eggord Thomaschky, Opel’s chief vehicle engineer has joined BMW AG.
Ralf Hannappel, Opel’s former head of electrified vehicles has joined Jaguar Land Rover, as the British company increases its focus on EVs following the highly successful launch of the Jaguar i-Pace.
Florian Koch, formerly head of Opel’s Infotainment Systems, is now lead engineer for Automotive Driver Assistance Systems at Continental AG.
Departures at this senior level certainly decimate the company’s abilities, however, according to a statement from PSA, the French company says it will have no problem assigning similarly-competent and experienced Groupe PSA executives to these and other roles.
PSA had previously said, in relation to its PACE initiative, that it needed to cut 3700 Opel jobs. It’s possible though, that PSA did not expect to lose such key members from the engineering side of the company. A later news report from Germany says over 1000 Opel employees, out of 19,000 employees in Germany, have applied for voluntary redundancy packages. A significant reduction in Opel's workforce is essential to achieve higher efficiencies.
As if to underscore the speed with which PSA is moving to re-engineer new Vauxhall and Opel vehicles onto the PSA CMP, EMP1 and EMP2 platforms, the confidential presentation included a ‘teaser’ slide of a planned Opel SUV – no doubt built on the EMP2 platform, which underpins the new 5008 SUV.
While Carlos Tavares has performed an almost miraculous turnaround at PSA, it has been achieved with savage job cuts, and we can expect not only Opel facilities, but also PSA plants will have to be shut, as Tavares manages the difficult task of integrating its new German operation.
My PSA source tells me that as recently as last week, it was common knowledge at the PSA offices in Paris, that the GM-Holden deal will expire in the six years outlined in the PSA-GM Europe acquisition plan.
This time frame has also now been confirmed by Holden CEO Mark Bernhardt.