St-Petersburg-293178Groupe PSA CEO Carlos Tavares has suggested the firm’s acquisition of GM’s European division could bring about a return of the Opel brand to the Russian market.

The French carmaker announced the $2.3 billion deal to acquire GM’s European division, which includes Opel and Vauxhall, last month.

GM pulled assembly out of the Russian market in 2015 when it stopped building cars at its plant in St Petersburg (pictured), as well as ending contract manufacturing with Russian partners Gaz in Nizhny Novgorod and Avtotor in Kaliningrad.

Speaking to the Russian Times (RT) last month, Tavares said only that restarting Opel production in Russia would be under consideration when PSA got the intellectual property rights for the brand, assuming there were a solid business case for it.

The purchase of Opel by Groupe PSA appears to have disrupted ongoing negotiations about a revival of activity at GM’s old plant in St Petersburg, however.

According to Maskim Meiksin, head of St Petersburg’s committee for industrial policy and innovation, city authorities in St Petersburg were making progress with GM on plans to reopen the plant, with an announcement anticipated this summer. Meiksin stressed that the plant was the part of GM Europe, adding that he could not say for sure if the deal with Groupe PSA would include it.

A source at St Petersburg’s City Hall suggested the deal between GM and PSA had brought some uncertainty to the idea of reviving the St Petersburg plant, suggesting that such a revival had been more likely under GM ownership.

Kaluga could benefitRussian automotive expert, Igor Morjaretto, told RT that Groupe PSA could well begin assembling Opel vehicles at the Kaluga plant, where the carmaker already produces Peugeot and Citroën models.

Morjaretto said such a step would be logical as the plant was only running at 20% of capacity, thanks to limited demand for its brands on the domestic market. Adding Opel assembly would increase utilisation and profitability there, he pointed out.

Groupe PSA would need some time to asses this, making any announcement about Opel’s return to Russia more likely in 2018 than in 2017, added Morjaretto.

Groupe PSA has not made any formal statement about the matter so far. A spokesperson for PCMA Rus told Automotive Logistics that as the company’s buyout of Opel was not scheduled to be completed until the end of 2017, the carmaker would not be commenting until then on the impact of the sale.

The prospects for renewed automotive production in Russia will be under discussion at the forthcoming Automotive Logistics Russia conference, which takes place in the first week of July this year. 

Read our recent Groupe PSA special report.