Opel is celebrating a very special anniversary. For 160 years, the brand with the lightning bolt emblem has been making innovations affordable for a wide audience. This was ensured by Adam Opel himself when he founded the company in August 1862 – and later by his five sons – and his wife Sophie, who energetically participated in the further development of the company and can therefore be considered the first female manager of a sewing machine, bicycle and automobile brand.
The beginning: from sewing machines to the biggest bicycle maker in the world
The success story began at the end of August 1862. Adam Opel assembled his first sewing machine in Rüsselsheim, laying the foundation stone for the young Opel company.
The company soon developed into one of the largest sewing machine manufacturers in Germany and exported to the whole of Europe. After the sewing machines, Opel built up its next successful pillar with the bicycle, becoming the world’s largest bicycle manufacturer.
1899: Affordable mobility with advanced technology and production
The decisive developmental step in the history of the company was the start of automobile production in 1899, later to become one of the most traditional car manufacturers in the world.
Opel was the first German manufacturer to introduce large-scale production using assembly line technology. The first car to roll off the assembly line in Germany in 1924 was the 4/12 PS “Laubfrosch”,
With heart and mind: nnovative bestsellers and new car classes
What is now known as the Astra and Insignia Sports Tourer rolled off the production line a few decades ago as the Caravan. Here, too, Opel played a pioneering role. In 1953, the carmaker launched the Olympia Rekord Caravan, a mixture of “car and van”, the first large-series station wagon from a German manufacturer.
Opel has also enjoyed great success with smaller models over the decades. First and foremost, the , a small car, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.
In 1991, the Astra was fitted with the Opel Safety System with side impact protection, anti-submarining ramps in the seats and seat belt tensioners. And in 1995, Opel was the first German car manufacturer to introduce full-size airbags for driver and front passenger as standard on all new cars. In 2003, Opel was the first vehicle manufacturer to introduce AFL (Adaptive Forward Lighting), dynamic cornering lights and 90-degree cornering lights in the mid-size class.
“Only flying is nicer”: sporty cars that arouse the emotions
The emotions that extraordinary cars can incite were recently demonstrated by the Opel Manta GSe ElektroMOD – the electrified homage to the Manta sports coupé that became a cult car in the 1970s and 1980s. Even back then, the Manta A provoked and inspired, with its design and characteristic front “visor”, which today adorns all-new Opel models from the current Mokka to the Grandland as the Opel Vizor.
In 1965, Opel presented the Experimental GT, the first concept car from a European car manufacturer, at the IAA motor show in Frankfurt. The two-seater broke the mold of conventional European car design. Only three years later, the first series-produced Opel GT rolled off the production line. Its performance, unique design and attractive price made the GT a hit with buyers, and it is still a real dream car today.
For the environment: from catalytic converter as standard to electric pioneer
Opel is aware of its responsibility towards the environment and acts accordingly – then as now. As early as 1985, Opel presented the Corsa 1.3i, the first European small car with a three-way catalytic converter.
Opel was already on the road electrically at an early stage – and at a “record pace”. As early as 1971, the Elektro GT set six sensational electric car world records on the Hockenheim racetrack. Then in 2019, Opel launched the Corsa-e, the brand’s first all-electric compact car, affordable e-mobility accessible to many customers across Europe. The range of electric models – as plug-in hybrids as well as battery-electric – has continued to grow ever since, so that by 2024 all Opel models will also be available in electrified variants.