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Since 1929, the automotive manufacturer Adam Opel AG has belonged to the General Motors group from the USA. The Opel brand is one of the best known made in Germany.
Adam Opel in 1862 founded a factory for the production of sewing machines. The business was active in this sector until the turn of the century. Due to the decline in world sales and after a factory fire in 1911, the Opel factory in Rüsselsheim am Main completely shifted to the production of bicycles and motor vehicles.
As early as 1886 the first Opel bike - still in parallel with the running Opel sewing machines - came onto the market. The bikes of Opel increased their popularity by bike races, in which the Opel brothers themselves successfully participated, until the company in the 1920ern rose to the position of the world's largest bicycle manufacturer. At the same time, the production of motor vehicles began.
After Adam Opel died in 1895, the enterprise was continued by the family and an engine factory in Dessau was purchased in 1899. At the first International Automobile Exhibition (IAA) in 1897 the Opel patent motor vehicle called "System Lutzmann" was presented in Berlin – it was the first Opel, of which 65 pieces were manufactured at the time. The production of trucks and aircraft engines also began in 1909.
At an early stage, the best positions in the racing industry contributed to the good reputation of the Opel manufacturer, for example in the Kaiserpreis-Rennen 1907 in the Taunus. In this way specific customers and connoisseurs were reached – the cabriolet Opel 4/8 PS had been popular with physicians since 1909. In the company headquarter in Rüsselsheim, since 1924 models for the general public were developed. A witness of that time is for instance the Opel 4 HP, which was manufactured in huge numbers.
But also the sporting and innovative activities were not let down - in 1928 Fritz von Opel set a new record on the Avus in the RAK 2 model with a speed of 238 km/h. In the aircraft Opel-Sander Rak 1, he carried out the first manned missile flight.
Opel became the largest German automobile manufacturer in 1924 and in 1928, Opel became the largest car maker in the then German empire, accounting for 44 percent of all motor vehicles produced.
In 1929, first 80 percentage of the company, finally in 1931 the whole company was bought up by General Motors, but one result of the negotiations was to preserve the peculiarities of Opel brand in the future. The Opel P4 was again designed in 1935 as a car for the broad public, of which more than 65 000 units were sold within two years. In 1937 Opel finally became Europe's largest car maker and ranked at the 7th place of the world.
Furthermore, Opel produced modern vehicles as well as trucks and military vehicles and was no less successful in export. Even before the war the models Olympia (1.5 l / 37 hp), the upper-class vehicle with a six-cylinder engine called Captain (2.5 l / 55 hp) and Admiral (3.5 l / 75 hp) went off the production line. The four-cylinder Kadett (1.1 liter displacement / 23 hp) was released in 1962 – this bestseller has been further developed under the name Astra and is already in the tenth series.
The Opel factories in Brandenburg on the Havel and in Rüsselsheim had been severely damaged by aerial attacks, so that only the main factory in Rüsselsheim could resume its business in 1945. At the end of 1947 Opel revived the production of the Olympic and Captain models.
In the 1950s, the mid-range model in its various versions like the Olympic Record and Record P1 moved the scale far up and got almost as popular as the VW Beetle.
With both the KAD series (“captain, admiral, diplomat”) and the newly-released Kadett model the Opel brand succeeded in the 60s, 70s and early 80s to become the most important and the largest automobile manufacturer of Germany after Volkswagen.
After this period of prosperity, the First Gulf War at the beginning of the 1980s caused losses for the first time, which actually lead to layoffs. The Vectra had long been in demand in the mid-class segment, but later replaced by the Insignia, and this model was no longer able to follow these successes.
However, the Kadett D and the Opel Corsa could achieve success, so that in 1993 a new factory in Eisenach started to operate. Nevertheless, in the 1990s the company experienced its most severe crisis due to a lack of marketing and quality assurance, which was accompanied by frequent changes in the board of directors.
Since the financial crisis of 2008, Opel had tried to split off from General Motors, which did not take place in the end. However, the newly founded Opel Group has now taken over the responsibilities for all activities in Europe and Russia. In this context, the marketing of a total of 23 new models has already begun.
With the small car Adam, Opel attaches to the inheritance of its founding father. Another small-town car is the slightly more spacious Agila. The range also includes the SUV Mokka and the Cabriolet Cascada.