Following the announcement that PSA will take over GM’s Opel/Vauxhall operations in Europe, IHS Markit explores the potential impact on PSA’s powertrain strategy in this special feature.
Implications: Although plans for diesel are likely to be reasonably simple, PSA could go in several directions on gasoline, electrification and transmissions.
Outlook: Although there appears to be plenty of scope for consolidations and synergies given the 1 million of additional vehicles PSA will add to its European production footprint, the expected phasing out of GM-Opel/Vauxhall technology is not necessarily good news for some component sites despite the new organisation likely to need some additional capacity.
Although the Global Powertrain and Compliance team at IHS Markit anticipates that PSA and Opel will maintain their current powertrain plans in Europe in the short term, the transition to new models, a push for greater synergies and the requirement of changing regulations is expected to prompt a significant shift over the coming years.
In terms of gasoline (petrol) engine line-up, PSA and Opel/Vauxhall will have two competing engine ranges that the new organisation may need to choose between. At PSA, this will be the EB engine family comprising naturally aspirated and turbocharged 1.0- and 1.2-litre three-cylinder engines, and its Prince 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine. Opel/Vauxhall, on the other hand, had been set to replace its current gasoline engine line-up with the new CSS family of engines in the region, which would stretch from 1.0 litres to 2.7 litres in capacity.
However, as seen in earlier analysis from IHS Markit of the acquisition of Opel/Vauxhall, a key area of consolidation will be among B-segment models. Despite a very tight timeframe, the Corsa and other models due to arrive in 2019 could find themselves built on PSA’s CMP architecture to meet incoming Euro 6d emissions regulations.
With this in mind, we anticipate that the key variants will feature PSA’s EB engine given that the platform will have been engineered around this from the start. This would also be a good opportunity to start yielding the EUR1.7-billion-worth of synergies that the deal with Opel/Vauxhall is hoped to achieve by 2026, with a significant portion expected to be delivered by 2020.
The situation for forthcoming C-segment and D-segment models is less certain. Although EB is also expected to be used on the larger CMP-based models and EMP platform models with small engine requirements, the question remains over using Prince or CSS for more powerful applications. The advantage of Prince is that it is a well-known engine for PSA.
However, despite using current technologies such as direct injection and turbocharging to boost power and reduce emissions, having first reached the market in 2006 there is some concern that it may struggle to get through Euro 7 emissions regulations next decade without further significant investment.
Even so, although CSS would be capable of meeting forthcoming regulations, there would be the cost of licensing this engine from GM, and by doing so PSA could incur some issues with non-compete agreements in some markets, although these would appear to be focused solely on vehicle architectures and the models built on them. Even so, a number of Opel/Vauxhall engine facilities that will be taken over by PSA as part of the deal will be seeing investment to begin building CSS.
IHS Markit intelligence suggests that PSA’s forthcoming plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) strategy is based around the Prince engine type, and electrification would help it pass Euro 7 regulations with this engine on certain variants. However, we believe that for non-electrification purposes CSS could make for a preferable choice if the hurdles above can be surmounted.
The situation in terms of diesel is likely to be simpler given PSA’s expertise in this field. Although initially, the new group is expected to use Opel/Vauxhall’s existing diesel engine range, when the transition to next-generation models is made, the sub-compact models anticipated to hit the market during 2019 will use PSA’s small DV engine range, while the compact range from 2021 will use DV and the larger DW engine families.
The only question is related to the recently launched Opel/Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport/Sports Tourer. This was due to transition to the diesel variants of the CSS family during 2019, which would carry it to the end of its life in 2024. However, while there is a chance that this could take place, PSA could re-engineer it to accept the DV/DW engines.
Further forward, the future of the larger DW engine family may come under question for both existing PSA brand vehicles and Opel/Vauxhall vehicles, particularly if ongoing regulatory pressure and costs make plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) more competitive in the long term. However, there is a likelihood of it remaining for some specific applications like light commercial vehicles (LCVs).
As we have seen in many cases above, many Opel/Vauxhall products will follow PSA’s current strategy as they make a transition to next-generation vehicles or as a function of engine consolidation. IHS Markit expect this to include both mild hybrids and PHEVs. As for battery electric vehicles (BEVs), GM will allow PSA to sell its Chevrolet Bolt-based Opel Ampera-e until the end of its current life-cycle.
PSA will come through with its own BEVs based on the electrified e-CMP architecture that will underpin both B-segment and entry-level C-segment models, and this could provide an opportunity for additional Opel/Vauxhall BEVs once the new PSA-based models are phased in. It seems unlikely that either will build a BEV in a larger segment than these for now though.
Despite the sale of Opel/Vauxhall, GM has suggested that there could be a relationship with PSA in the area of BEVs further in the future. Chief executive officer Mary Barra said following the announcement of the deal that PSA is “very interested” in GM’s BEV technology. Furthermore, it has also been suggested that fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) could well be part of PSA’s very long-term future supplied by a joint venture between GM and Honda.
In Europe, both PSA and Opel/Vauxhall brands have high take rates for manual transmissions. Both OEMs have a broad range of manual transmissions, each designed to fit into their respective vehicle platforms. Assuming that PSA platforms replace the GM platforms over time, it seems inevitable that the Opel/Vauxhall manuals will begin to be phased out.
However, Opel/Vauxhall is just about to start production of a new smaller six-speed manual, called the M24/M1x. Given the timing, this launch will almost certainly go ahead, but the lifespan of the M24 looks set to be shorter than originally intended. Ultimately, the PSA MB6, which is also just about to go into production, will become the small six-speed manual of choice.
For smaller five-speed manuals, things could potentially go a different way. The relatively new Opel/Vauxhall F1x (190Nm) might be considered to be more modern, more efficient, and lighter than the slightly larger PSA BE4/5 (250Nm). This assumes that F1x can be engineered to fit into the PSA vehicle platforms with PSA engines.
At the other end of the torque spectrum, the larger Opel/Vauxhall M32 six-speed manual was expected to be replaced by a newer M35 design. This project has already been delayed once, and so it seems likely that it will be dropped completely, unless the CO2 benefits that it brings are essential in the shorter term.
When it comes to planetary automatics, PSA and GM have different strategies. PSA has decided during the past few years, to increase the use of Aisin automatic transmissions, for use in standard ICE/stop-start applications and as part of its hybridisation strategy.
GM, on the other hand, has its own in-house automatics, although these are built outside Europe, and so are not directly affected by the acquisition, but are expected to be licensed for use in the near term for existing/imminent applications. Opel/Vauxhall also buys in some automatic transmissions from Aisin for some higher torque applications, so it seems likely that as the supply of GM transmissions is phased out, PSA would continue to look to Aisin to increase the supply of automatic transmissions.
PSA and Opel/Vauxhall have planned and/or developed dual clutch transmissions (DCTs), but ultimately neither has yet included DCTs in their respective European vehicle strategies. With increased combined vehicle volumes, and PSA’s decision to phase out automated manual transmissions (AMTs), this may be an opportunity for an external transmission suppliers to pitch smaller/medium torque DCTs as a replacement for the simple but unpopular AMT.
Indeed, PSA’s JV in China, Dongfeng Peugeot Citroën Automobile has already established a relationship with Getrag which has designed a small DCT for local applications. It would seem logical that this relationship could be extended to Europe. Alternatively, PSA could try to make use of Opel/Vauxhall’s DCT development experience and possibly intellectual property depending on ownership to develop a new in-house DCT. However, this would be a more time-consuming and potentially more risky solution.
Outlook and implications
Looking back at the analysis above shows that there appears to be plenty of scope for consolidations and synergies between PSA and Opel/Vauxhall given the 1 million additional vehicles it will add to its European production footprint. However, the expected phasing out of GM-Opel/Vauxhall technology is not necessarily good news for some of the five component sites in the region that will be part of the acquisition.
However, the new organisation is likely to need some additional capacity to produce the new requirement, although as the chairman of PSA’s Management Board, Carlos Tavares has said those that are maintained will do so on the merits of efficiency improvements.