2011 Opel Vauxhall Ampera Sports Car

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2011 Opel Vauxhall Ampera


Adam Opel AG is a German automobile company founded by Adam Opel in 1862. Opel has been building automobiles since 1899, and became an AG in 1929. In late 2005, the company was transformed into a GmbH (PLC).

The company is headquartered at the Adam Opel Haus in Rüsselsheim, and has been a wholly owned subsidiary of General Motors Company since 1929.

Opel has announced that it will invest around 11 billion Euros in the next five years. One billion of that is designated solely for the development of innovative and fuel-saving engines and transmissions.


The company was founded in Rüsselsheim, Hesse, Germany on January 21, 1862 by Adam Opel. At the beginning, Opel just produced sewing machines in a cowshed in Rüsselsheim. Above all, his success was based on his perfectly customized sewing machines. Because of the quick growth of his business, in 1888 the production was relocated from the cowshed to a more spacious building in Rüsselsheim. Encouraged by success, Adam Opel launched a new product in 1886: He began to sell high-wheel bicycles, also known as penny-farthings.

Besides, Opel s two sons participated in high-wheel bicycle races and thus promoted this means of transportation. Therefore, the production of high-wheel bicycles soon exceeded the production of sewing machines. At the time of Opel s … in 1895, he was the leader in both markets.

The first cars were produced in 1899 after Opel s sons entered into a partnership with Friedrich Lutzmann, a locksmith at the court in Dessau in Saxony-Anhalt, who had been working on automobile designs for some time. [4] These cars were not very successful and so the partnership was dissolved after two years, following which Opel s sons signed a licensing agreement with the French Automobiles Darracq S.A. to manufacture vehicles under the brand name Opel-Darracq . These cars were made up of Opel bodies mounted on a Darracq chassis, powered by a 2-cylinder engine.

In 1901, Adam Opel separated from Lutzmann and signed a new contract with a Frenchman, Alexandre Darracq. The company first showed cars of its own design at the 1902 Hamburg Motor Show, and started manufacturing them in 1906, with Opel-Darracq production being discontinued in 1907.

In 1909, the Opel 4/8 hp model, known as the Doctor s Car was produced. Its reliability and robustness were greatly appreciated by physicians, who drove a lot to see their patients, back when hard-surfaced roads were still rare. The Doctor s Car sold for only 3,950 marks, about half as much as the luxury models of its day.

In 1911, the company s factory was virtually destroyed by fire and a new one was built with more up-to-date machinery.

By 1914, Opel had become the largest German manufacturer of motor vehicles.

In the early 1920s, Opel became the first German car manufacturer to incorporate a mass production assembly line in the building of their automobiles. In 1924, they used their assembly line to produce a new open two-seater called the Laubfrosch . The Laubfrosch was finished exclusively in green lacquer.

The car sold for an expensive 4,500 marks, (expensive considering the less expensive manufacturing process) but by the 1930s this type of vehicle would cost a mere 1,990 marks — due in part to the assembly line, but also due to the skyrocketing demand for cars. Adam Opel led the way for motorized transportation to become not just a means for the rich, but a reliable way for people of all classes to travel.

Opel had a 37.5% market share in Germany and was also the country s largest automobile exporter in 1928. The Regent — Opel s first eight-cylinder car — was offered. The RAK 1 and RAK 2 rocket-propelled cars made sensational record-breaking runs.

In March 1929, General Motors (GM), impressed by Opel s modern production facilities, bought 80% of the company, increasing this to 100% in 1931. The Opel family gained $33.3 million from the transaction. Subsequently, a second factory was built at Brandenburg for the production of Blitz light trucks.

In 1935, Opel became the first German car manufacturer to produce over 100,000 vehicles a year. This was based on the popular Opel P4 model. The selling price was a mere 1,650 marks and had a 23 hp (17 kW) 1.1 L four-cylinder engine and a top speed of 85 km/h (53 mph). Opel also produced the first mass-production vehicle with a self-supporting all steel body. They called it the Olympia .

With its small weight and aerodynamics came an improvement in both performance and fuel consumption. Opel receives a patent which is considered one of the most important innovations in automotive history.

1939 saw the presentation of the extremely successful, Kapitän . With a 2.5 L six-cylinder engine, all-steel body, front independent suspension, hydraulic shock absorbers, hot-water heating w/electric blower and central speedometer. 25,374 Kapitäns left the factory before intensification World War II brought automotive manufacturing to a temporary stop in the Autumn/Fall of 1940, by order of the government.

World War II

World War II brought to Rüsselsheim the only year in the entire history of Opel — 1945 — in which it produced no vehicles at all, since that first Lutzmann-authored Opel was made in 1899. Before the conflict broke out, the Adam Opel AG had established itself as the largest motor vehicle manufacturer in Europe. The combination of Opel know-how with GM resources had produced outstanding results.

In spite of stifling red tape, the economic atmosphere in Germany in the 1930s had powerfully fertilized the growth of this and other auto companies. But in the case of Opel, at least, it was clear that the expansion of this industrial machine was not directed in any way toward military objectives.

Military LKW Opel Blitz, Italy, 1944

Even after June 1940, official connections between Opel and America were not broken and monetary gain continued throughout the war which was controlled by the J.P Morgan firm, the Rüsselsheim plant was never given a major role in Germany s war preparations. Neither was Ford s plant in Cologne considered trustworthy enough for a big assignment, such as tank manufacture, in view of their earlier foreign associations. Initially, of course, it had appeared that the war would be a short one settled in Germany s favor.

Auto plants were shut down, to conserve resources, but not converted to other jobs.

When in 1942 it became clearer that the fighting would go on for a while, car and truck factories were switched to war work in a modest way, Opel taking up the production of aircraft parts and tanks. Only at the Brandenburg truck plant did vehicle manufacture roar ahead at full speed. From the end of 1938 onward to big Opel Blitz trucks had been powered by the same basic 3.6 L engine used in the Admiral.

To meet the growing demands of wartime, 3 short tons (2.7 t) trucks of Opel design were built under license by Daimler-Benz at the former Benz factory at Mannheim.

One of the most versatile small German military vehicles, the Kettenkrad, a curious but useful blend of tractor and motorcycle, was powered with a 1.4 L Olympia four-cylinder engine. Produced by NSU, it had motorcycle-type front-wheel steering for gentle turns and negotiated tight corners with brakes on the propelling caterpillar tracks. The Kettenkrad towed antitank guns and transported troops and signal gear in several theater of war.

NSU continued to make it after the war for use in mines and forests. It was one of the few vehicles that could do jobs formerly performed by horses for which, owing to the shortage of oats, there was even less fuel available than for motor vehicles.

As the war progressed, military authorities placed greater stress on the development of air-cooled engines, which they felt had more immunity to damage from weather, shellfire and misuse. To meet this demand, Opel engineers developed an unusual variation on normal cooling for the 3.6 L truck engine. It was called air-oil cooling, and used engine oil to take heat away from the jackets around the cylinder barrels. The heads were directly cooled by air, there being three separate aluminum finned heads, each serving two cylinders.

Of this interesting engine, which developed 72 hp (54 kW; 73 PS) at 3000 rpm on 74-octane fuel, only three examples were built.

Other special jobs were undertaken at the Rüsselsheim factory. One that was too exotic to be typical was the construction of an intercooler for the supercharger of the famous Junkers Juno aircraft engine. Special methods had to be developed to fabricate this vital assembly from very thin sheets of aluminum. With work like this going on, Germany s enemies naturally took note of the various Opel plants and, starting in August 1944, began visiting them by air. The resulting devastation was a tragic echo of the effects of the fire of exactly 33 years earlier.

Destruction was heavy at both Rüsselsheim and Brandenburg from the attacks by Allied bombers. Never was the outlook more bleak at Adam Opel AG than in the first months of 1945.

Opel had been transformed and rebuilt before. There was very little, actually, beyond the determination of the men and women who believed in the power of the Opel idea and the 83 years over which it had been created. Many of the tools with which they once had worked were gone.

The Brandenburg truck plant fell into the Russian Zone of a divided post-war Germany. It did not stay there long. All the machinery and equipment — right down to the window frames and bathroom fixtures — was dismantled and shipped to a site near the Ural mountains.

Cars as well as truck production lines were lost by Opel. As reparations for war destruction, under plans of the Allied Forces, the Soviet Union asked the Allied Military Government for the tools, jigs, dies, fixtures, and drawings for the Kadett. This, they said, they would use to begin auto production at an Opel subsidiary in Russian-occupied Leipzig.

The equipment was duly delivered to the Soviets in June 1946, and that was the last Opel was to see of it — but not of the Kadett.

Just a year later a new Soviet car, the Moskvitch 400, rolled off a Moscow assembly line. It was the Opel Kadett in every detail; only the name was changed. By late 1950, the Russians were exporting these Kremlin Kadetts to Belgium, stressing in their promotion that spare parts could easily be obtained from Germany. Not until 1959 was a Moskovitch model introduced that bore no trace of Opel engineering.

And by that time, Opel was just about ready to introduce a new Kadett of its own.

Only the strong resistance of the American government within whose zone of occupation Rüsselsheim was located, prevented the total dismantling of the entire Opel plant as reparations in Russia. GM had no say in these discussions and was not sure just what posture to take toward its sometime subsidiary. GM s Alfred Sloan recalled:

(Opel) had been seized by the German government soon after the war began. In 1942 our entire investment in Opel amounted to about $35 million, and under a ruling which the Treasury Department had made concerning assets in enemy hands, we were allowed to write off the investment against current taxable income. But this ruling did not end our interest in, or responsibility for, the Opel property.

As the end of the war drew near, we were given to understand that we were still considered the owners of the Opel stock; and we were also given to understand that as the owners, we might be obliged to assume responsibility for the property. It was a responsibility that Sloan and his associates weren t at all sure was worth the risk in the chaos of postwar Europe.

One resource that did not appear on the books of General Motors or on the rolls of the occupying authorities was most responsible for the recovery of Opel in 1945: the extraordinary loyalty of its workers. They were not itinerant opportunists who had looked on their work at Rüsselsheim as just another job. They were men and women who had, for the most part, come from that immediate area, many from the quiet of the country, and had literally grown up with the Adam Opel AG More important to them than their own fates was that of Opel, for its collapse would mean the loss of the most important employer for the people of Rüsselsheim who were finding their way home from the chaos of war.

Just at war s end a small skeleton crew began clearing the rubble from the plant. By May 1945, this work had advanced enough to allow the beginning of production of desperately needed Opel parts. Getting the materials for them was more dependent on barter and black markets than it was on normal sources of supply, which had all but ceased to exist.

Opel restructuring (2009-present)

In early 2009, the future of GM s German brand, Opel was thrown into uncertainty as the global financial crisis drove GM towards bankruptcy. New Opel (Opel plus Vauxhall, minus Saab), was controlled by a trustee, with a controlling board made up of representatives from GM, employees and the German Government; the company was subject to a bidding process.

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The deal, underwritten by the German Government, was negotiated by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. GM was expected to keep a 35% minority stake in the new company, [7] [8] Opel staff 10%, with a plan which proposed to sell the majority of the business to one of two partners:


A consortium majority-owned by a Sberbank of Russia (35%), Magna International of Canada (20%), and Opel employees (10%)

The new company would not be allowed to sell Opel cars in the U.S. (permanently) and China (at least temporarily) markets, which are the two biggest markets in the world.

On June 1, 2009, GM filed for bankruptcy in a court in New York. As the sale of Opel had been negotiated two days before, with the preferred bidder the Magna consortia, both companies were in effect ring-fenced from any GM asset liquidation. [11] [12] [13] [14] If Opel needed to reduce production of its own core models then any unused capacity could be used to manufacture vehicles for other carmakers. Inside sources close to Magna revealed that some of the possible third party carmakers include Ford and PSA Peugeot Citroen. [15]

GM announced that final bids were to be placed with them by July 20, which resulted in three bidders:

Magna, still backed by Sberbank, had made a last-minute change to its bid in order to placate concerns about its Russian partner s influence. This would result in both partners having a 27.5% share in the new company, with GM retaining 35%.

Belgian-based investor RHJ International

China s Beijing Automotive Industries disqualified over intellectual property issues a few days later

Toward the end of August 2009, there were doubts over whether a sale of Opel would actually go ahead, though a German government official later revealed that talks were continuing. This was followed by RHJ International raising its bid for Opel to €300m from €275m.

On September 10, 2009, GM agreed to sell a 55% stake in Opel to the Magna group with the approval of the German government.The agreement would have kept Opel a fully integrated part of GM’s global product development organisation. However, on 3 November 2009 the GM board called off the Magna deal after coming to the conclusion that Opel was crucial to GM s global strategy.

With ongoing restructuring plans Opel announced the closure of its Antwerp plant in Belgium from January 2011 onwards.


Opel is one of the most traditional car manufacturers in Germany, and one of Europe’s largest automakers. The company operates 13 vehicle, powertrain, and component plants in eight countries and employs around 43,000 people (as of January 2011). Many additional jobs are provided by some 5,000 independent sales and service outlets as a direct result of their business with the automaker. Opel and its sister brand in the U.K.

Vauxhall, sell vehicles in more than 35 markets in Europe. The company s factory in Rüsselsheim has been transformed to one of the most modern plants in the world for €750 million and started production in 2002. The capacity is around 180,000 vehicles a year. Other Opel plants are in Bochum, Eisenach, and Kaiserslautern, Germany; St.

Petersburg, Russia; Vienna/Aspern, Austria; Szentgotthard, Hungary; Zaragoza, Spain and Gliwice, Poland. Opel cars are also made in Vauxhall s Ellesmere Port and Luton plant in the UK. The Dudenhofen Test Center is located near the Rüsselsheim headquarters.

Also located in Rüsselsheim is the International Technical Development Center (ITDC) and the Opel Design Center. Around 6,300 people are responsible for the development and design of Opel vehicles. All in all, Opel plays an enormously important role in the global GM corporate group as it has for instance developed and engineered the Epsilon (I) platform, Epsilon II platform, Delta (I) platform, Gamma platform and played an important role in the development of especially the higher-end, more-refined versions of the Delta II platform and the Gamma II platform.

In addition, the company is developing new manufacturing equipment for the global GM auto production.

So Opel is in most cases fully responsible for all the car architectures and technologies up to the Opel Insignia/Buick Regal/Buick LaCrosse. In particular, all the future-oriented, modern, full-efficient GM architectures for more compact vehicles are developed by Opel in Rüsselsheim.

Even the idea and concept behind the Chevrolet Volt/Opel Ampera is rooted in Opel/Germany with Frank Weber, the former Global Vehicle Line Executive and Global Chief Engineer electric vehicle development and therefore leader of the Volt-development, being originally an Opel-employee who was moved to the USA in order to advance the development of this prestigious, revolutionary concept in GM s home country instead of the German outpost that is Opel. In 2009, Weber returned during the reorganization of the Opel leadership to Opel as Vice President Planning and Commercial Vehicle Operations for the company.

Opel Meriva B (since 2010)

Opel established Opel Performance Center GmbH (OPC) in 1997, which is responsible for the development of high-performance cars of Opel.

Opel Special Vehicles GmbH (OSV) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Adam Opel AG which produces special series and undertakes vehicle modifications. Together with the ITDC, OSV developed the environmentally friendly and cost-CNG-drive concept based on natural gas (Compressed Natural Gas) and was first implemented on the Opel Zafira 1.6 CNG.

In 2011, Opel sold over 1,18 million passenger cars and light commercial vehicles in Europe, achieving a market share of 6.4%. In Germany, Opel regained the number two position with a market share of 8.6%. It offers International and Diplomat Sales (IDS) to customers in international organizations, military, and diplomatic service.

Starting this year, the company will begin selling vehicles in China, Chile and Israel. In late 2011, Opel will also sell vehicles in South Africa, Argentinia and the Middle East.

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