Opel was founded in 1862 at Rüsselsheim to manufacture sewing machines. It branched out into bicycles in 1886 and cars in 1899. Cooperation with Darracq in 1901 saw more cars turned out, but it was 1902 when the Opel brothers—the founder’s sons—went it alone. Its ﬁrst popular model, colloquially known as the ‘Doctor’s Car’, was produced in 1909.
Opel was forced to depart from the sewing machine business after a fire, and financial difficulties as a result of the German economic crisis closed the company in 1923. After installing a production line, Opel reopened the following year. It went public in 1928, with General Motors purchasing 80 per cent in 1929. Total ownership followed in 1931.
Opel abandoned its bicycle business in 1937, and during World War II the plant was converted to military use. Allied bombing destroyed more than half of the factory, but within two years after the war, Opel was back.
Its models tended to be more advanced than those of its other European GM counterpart, Vauxhall, and by the 1970s Opel was given the responsibility for all Opel and Vauxhall models. It had already proved itself designing the T-car, the world car that was built on most continents by various marques ranging from Saehan and Isuzu to Holden and Chevrolet, and which was made by Opel itself as the Kadett.
With GM bankrupt in 2009 and coming under US governmental control, the company looked for ways to dispose of its divisions, Opel being one. But by the end of the year, GM had had a change of heart, realizing the strategic importance of the company.
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