The company founded by Adam Opel in 1863 initially produced sewing machines. The manufacturer based in Russelsheim, Germany, began assembling bicycles in 1886 and automobiles in 1899. It was acquired by General Motors in 1929 and has been the American group's main European asset ever since. Opel models sold in the UK under the Vauxhall brand are almost identical to those sold in the rest of the European continent, except for the badge and the fact that they are right-hand drive.
By the beginning of the Second World War, Opel was already the biggest car producer in Europe. During the war, Opel's plants suffered heavy damage and immediately after its end what was left of them almost got shipped to Russia as war reparations. This was the case of the Brandenburg plant, which fell in the Russian occupied zone. The one in Russelsheim, being in the American sector was saved, despite Russian demands to take control of it.
General Motors retook control of Opel after the war. Production of the Opel Blitz truck started in 1946 at the Russelsheim factory. The assembly of passenger cars started again at the end of 1948 with the Olympia model, which was a copy of the pre-war model initially introduced in 1935 bearing the same name.
Production expanded gradually in the 50s and 60s with the Kapitan and Kadett models. Opel found itself positioned between Volkswagen and Mercedes in terms of prices.
In the 1970s Opel evolved to become GM's most successful European market, surpassing the British-based brand Vauxhall. This led to the decision by General Motors to gradually merge the two brands' lineups.
The 1990s saw the further expansion of Opel's lineup as well as its exports. Hit by the 2008 economic crisis led to severe financial difficulties for General Motors who sought to sell the majority stake in Opel to Magna group. The deal was canceled, but in early 2017 information surfaced that GM was still trying to sell unprofitable Opel to PSA Peugeot Citroen. The deal got through and now Opel is a part of the PSA group.