The car manufacturer Opel is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its plant in Eisenach, Thuringia. The story behind it is also a chapter of German-German reunification history near the famous Wartburg, shaped by success and crises - and by well-known cars with the Opel Blitz.
Comparatively small, but world-famous: just 42,000 people live in Eisenach on the edge of the Thuringian Forest. In 1521 Martin Luther translated the Bible into German here as a fugitive hunted by emperors and bishops, Johann Sebastian Bach was born here in 1685 and here in 1817 at the "Wartburg Festival" the first tender little plants of German democracy flourished under the previously unknown flag with the colors black and white. Red gold.
The city on the edge of the A 4 was also one of the centers of the German car industry. Opel also entered this family book 30 years ago. Because in Thuringia, the first golf competitor, the Astra, rolled off the assembly line in 1992, followed a year later by the Corsa or the Adam, which had previously been built exclusively in Spain.
The Opel duo, both bestsellers for years, had nothing to do with another model with which Eisenach caused a sensation for years. This had a much funnier name, known as "Dixi" (Latin for "I spoke"). This is what the Eisenach vehicle factory, founded in 1896, called its initially large models from 1904. The troubled company later switched to a replica of the British Austin 7, a small, sporty two-seater.
Then BMW grabbed it, bought the company and inherited the "Dixi". The Bavarians began building cars in Eisenach. BMW's Hall of Fame includes icons such as the 328 sports car and many others - all "Made in Thuringia".
The West German carmaker Opel, under the direction of the US company General Motors, had long since put out feelers to Eisenach. A hall was built on a green field in the west of the city, in which the first Opel, a Vectra, rolled off the assembly line on October 5, 1990, two days after German reunification. The then Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl was there.
It was he who, two years later, pushed the start button to build the first Opel model to be built in the new factory at the site of the former Vectra production. US President Bill Clinton was also there as a kind of lawyer for the owner General Motors.
A year earlier, the trustee had switched off the light in what was left of the former GDR company. Around 4500 jobs were affected. Since the Opel plant worked with the most modern technologies, fewer people were needed. In the beginning there were just 1,900 employees, today there are even 600 fewer.
A good 3.7 million vehicles have been built in Eisenach to date. In addition to the Astra and Corsa, there is also the small car Adam. In the meantime, however, Opel in Thuringia is only concentrating on its flagship, the mid-range SUV Grandland with plug-in hybrid or classic combustion engines. "This makes the plant an important part of our electrification offensive," says Opel boss Huettl.
By 2024 there should be a purely electric variant in each series, four years later Opel, which now belongs to the Stellantis Group, wants to switch completely to electricity.
This also includes a new sub-brand, for which Opel uses an old abbreviation. "GSE" once stood for power versions of the Commodore or Monza and meant "Grand Sport Injection". In the future, the "E" will indicate the electric drive. The study of a newly launched Opel Manta has already been shown, other GSE models should then crown each series.