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A forgotten carmaker in our region: this was the evolution of Opel

Opel is only present with its models in the Chilean market (Opel)

The origin of Opel is quite particular. In 1862, Adam Opel started manufacturing sewing machines in Rüsselsheim (Germany), but a few years later he decided to venture into the mobility industry and began developing bicycles that at that time had become fashionable in Europe. The story goes that Opel was not a great admirer of automobiles and when he died in 1895, his children were the ones who considered the possibility of entering the new business due to the fall in sales of bikes.

In this way, Opel Automobile GMBH opened its doors in 1899 and in its first year of production, 11 cars were made. In the only three years of its manufacture, only 65 units were developed and it was a commercial failure, which led to the dissolution of the partnership it had made with Lutzmann.

To continue in the industry, the The brand decided that same year to sign a contract with the Frenchman Alexandre Darracq to start importing his vehicles and also the Renault. Finally, it was possible to agree to the production of the Darracq under license in Germany.

The objective in its first models was to offer the same characteristics that offered the vehicles of the premium brand
The objective in its first models was to offer the same characteristics that offered the vehicles of the premium brand

The first great leap in its history was made in 1924 when invested one million marks in modernizing its factory to adopt mass production with line methods. In this way he released the 4/12 CV, better known as Laubfrosch.

At the end of that decade, General Motors began the purchase of all the shares of the firm that ended in 1931. The Blitz truck began to be produced from that moment and a few years later the first generation of the Kadett appeared, with an integral frame and body assembly.

It was the year 1940 when the Opel plant in Rüsselsheim produced its one millionth copy since the start of production in 1899. That Kapitan, as the vehicle was called, inaugurated a kind of tradition whereby most of the units with which significant records were achieved for the brand corresponded to high-end models.

The Kapitan (Opel) launch poster
The Kapitan (Opel) launch poster

The Opel Kapitan was one of the vehicles with which the brand challenged the most “premium” firms, offering a high level of quality and finishes for an economical price. In addition to its self-supporting body, it featured an independent front suspension, hydraulic shock absorbers, liquid cooling with an electric fan and a windscreen demisting system, all elements that caused a sensation at the time.

On November 9, 1956, another Kapitan was the Opel 2 million produced. It had a body that recalled the lines of American cars of the time, new suspensions, remodeled bumpers, decorative profiles, chrome wheel trims, and an original “shark mouth” front end.

The 80s in the hands of the luxurious Opel Senator

In 1983, a Senator CD was the 20 millionth Opel produced. Developed on the platform of the Rekord, with which it had a remarkable aesthetic and mechanical similarity, this model was longer and more spacious and featured a wider front and some specific details such as the abundant use of chrome, a different front, a rear pillar more profiled and the presence of a third side window that gave it its own appearance. The range included six-cylinder in-line engines; a 140 hp 2.8 and a 150 hp 3-liter carburettor whose power increased to 180 hp with the adoption of injection.

So particular is its history that Opel had a founder who did not like cars (Opel)
So particular is its history that Opel had a founder who did not like cars (Opel)

The Opel Omega addressed a new market segment

Exactly, On February 23, 1989, an Omega A 3.0 Caravan was the 25 millionth Opel produced. With the introduction of the first generation, the German brand not only changed the name of its top-of-the-range model, but also completely renewed its image, with a more dynamic connotation.

Its aesthetics was an obvious example of the change in trend in designs. Depending on the brand, the sloping front, smooth sides and flush windows created a slim shape that resulted in an optimal drag coefficient (Cx) of between 0.28 and 0.30. Aerodynamics and the special care taken in the development of engine technology, consumption, respect for the environment and safety allowed the brand to win for the second time in three years the award for “Car of the Year in Europe ”.

Just five years later an Omega B MV6, the high-performance version, was the 30 millionth unit, while on December 2, 1999, the brand celebrated a century of production with the arrival of the 50 millionth copy that, once again, was an Opel Omega B.

Celebrating the launch of the 30 millionth unit (Opel)
Celebrating the launch of the 30 millionth unit (Opel)

Unlike the first series, which catered to the same clientele as the Rekord, the second positioned itself as a more rational rival to the models of the premium brands. For this, while the first generation was offered with economical gasoline engines, this one was distinguished by its rounded lines and by its sophisticated 2 and 3-liter gasoline and Diesel mechanics. Among all of them stood out a diesel with 6 cylinders in line of 130 CV and a gasoline V6 of 3 liters and 210 CV of power.

Opel’s latest gem offers electrification within everyone’s reach

In 2020, 121 years after the first Opel made in Rüsselsheim, the brand launched the new Corsa-e. With its 337 km of autonomy in WLTP cycle, it can be used daily thanks to its 50 kWh battery that can be recharged to 80% of its capacity in just 30 minutes.

In the new Opel Corsa-e, driver assistance systems and technologies make their debut that until now were only present in higher segments. In addition, it incorporates possible collision alert with automatic emergency braking, signal recognition, radar-based cruise control and the optional sensor-based Flank guard side protection system. But there is even more with the availability of the lane keep and lane centering system, blind spot control, 180 degree vision reversing camera and different parking assist systems.

The Opel Corsa-e is now available on the European market (Opel)
The Opel Corsa-e is now available on the European market (Opel)

For its part, the engine has a power of 100 kW (136 hp) and a maximum torque of 260 Nm that is characterized by good agility in city traffic and great dynamics for use outside the city.

Opel’s strange passage through the region

Its alliance in the 90s with General Motors made the brand begin to offer some of its models in the market in the region. In Mexico, the second generation of the Corsa was marketed under the name Chevy, starting in 1994. Since then, it remained on the market with minor modifications until 2012 where it was replaced by the Chevrolet Aveo and Chevrolet Sonic.

A small variant offering a 100% electric impeller (Opel)
A small variant offering a 100% electric impeller (Opel)

It also had national production in Colombia. At the General Motors Colmotores plant, the Monza was assembled between 1985 and 1992 and then the Corsa between 1996 and 2005. The Astra of German origin also arrived, but it had the Chevrolet logo on its forehead.

For its part, Brazil had a model derived from the Opel Rëkord in 1969, under the name Chevrolet Opala. This remained on the market uninterruptedly until 1992, when it was replaced by the Omega, similar to its German namesake, but powered by units imported from the United States. The brand continued to drop and, today, several models of Opel origin are still being seen on the Brazilian streets.

Chile is the only country in Latin America where it markets its range made up of the Adam, Corsa, Astra, Cascada, Antara, Meriva, Mokka and Insignia models. The German brand returned to the market in that country in 2011, after having ceased sales in 1998.

The Corsa is a model with many followers in the region (Opel)
The Corsa is a model with many followers in the region (Opel)

After producing in the previous decades in Argentina, the 1974 Opel K 180 became one of the emblems of the brand in this country. An icon of that time, this model had an 86 horsepower four-cylinder engine that was produced locally. In the 90s, the copies of the German firm returned to the market, but (almost) all were offered with the Chevrolet logo.


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