RUESSELSHEIM, Germany -- Opel's global export push could mean production of its cars in PSA's plants in China, Russia and Iran, and even sales in the U.S., the home market of its former owner General Motors.
As part of its new turnaround plan, Opel is exploring potential new markets for cars and light trucks outside of its European heartland.
GM prevented the German division from having a big presence in key growth countries such as China because of fears it would compete with Chevrolet and Buick models -- some of which were based on Opel engineering.
With Opel's entire lineup moving to PSA platforms, Opel has much more freedom to pursue sales in non-European markets. "Opel will go global, finally," CEO Michael Lohscheller said here on Thursday while presenting the so-called PACE restructuring plan.
Lohscheller said Opel will enter more than 20 new markets by 2022, with Argentina, Saudi Arabia and Taiwan among countries identified as potential export markets. Opel also is exploring whether to sell cars in China and Brazil, he said.
Opel executives did not mention whether the automaker will seek to sell cars in the U.S. But "nothing more stands in the way" of a possible U.S. market entry once Opel has shifted its product lineup to PSA platforms from GM architectures, said Opel’s labor leader Wolfgang Schaefer-Klug, who also is an Opel board member.
In the future, Opel will use PSA's two platforms, CMP and EMP2, for its entire lineup.
PSA plans a return to the U.S. and earlier this year named former Nissan executive Larry Dominique to spearhead the project as senior vice president of PSA North America.
With PSA platforms and engines, Opel is now is a position to benefit from PSA's global production. PSA has factories in China and South America, a joint plant with Mitsubishi in Russia, and kit assembly production in Iran. Lohscheller said Opel will be able to utilize PSA's global production network.
Opel has already dipped its toes into the Chinese and Russian markets. It sold about 5,000 cars annually in China in the early part of the decade, but sales were limited because of high tariffs on imports. The brand was also launched in Russia with some success over a decade ago, but sales came to an end when GM pulled out of the country in 2015 following a major market downturn.
Opel will stop importing cars into Europe from GM's South Korean plants, which adds to currency risks and ties up working capital, Lohscheller said. The move will improve production capacity in its European factories where the PACE plan targets 100 percent utilization by 2020.
The Opel Karl/Vauxhall Viva minicar, a sister model to the Chevrolet Spark, is built by GM Korea.