Remembering Opel Automobiles on the Streets of Chattanooga

Sunday, March 12, 2017 - by Harmon Jolley

General Motors announced on March 6, 2017 that it was selling its European-based Opel and Vauxhall divisions to the PSA Group, parent company of Peugeot and Citroen.  For Chattanoogans, the news may have jogged some memories of two different eras when Opels were sold at local car dealers.

Opel was founded in Germany in 1862 by Adam Opel as a sewing machine manufacturer, later expanding to bicycles and automobiles.  General Motors acquired a controlling interest in Opel in 1929 and by 1931 owned all of Opel.  Both Opel and Vauxhall were operated as a subsidiary of General Motors for many years.

In 1958 General Motors decided to have their Buick dealers sell the Opel to draw customers away from the increasingly popular Volkswagen.  Locally, Amos & Andy Buick sold Opel beginning in 1964 alongside the much larger Buick sedans and coupes.

Faced with continued competition from other import brands and demands for greater fuel economy, General Motors introduced new subcompacts such as the Chevrolet Vega, Monza, and Chevette during the 1970’s.  The importing of the Opel automobiles soon waned. 

In 2008 a second appearance of cars with Opel roots occurred in Chattanooga with the introduction of the Saturn Astra subcompact at the local Saturn dealership on International Drive.  The Astra was an example of a “world car” with initial engineering in 1991 by Opel and re-badging under assorted brands by Buick of China, Holden in Australia, Saturn, and Vauxhall.  Intended to replace the Saturn Ion, the Saturn Astra had poor sales and was soon discontinued as part of the sunset of the entire Saturn division of GM in 2009.

If you have memories of the Opel Kadett or Saturn Astra, please share them by sending an e-mail to me at jolleyh@bellsouth.net.  I’ll update this article with some of your recollections.

 

 



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