The year of birth of the famous automobile company can be considered 1899. And the peasant farmers, who came from it, began to be called Obbels.
That is why the local native Tonguez Opel had this surname. But when he grew up, he decided to go to the city-dream of his childhood - to Paris.
There, a 21-year-old boy got a job at a sewing machine factory. Opel gained good experience and knowledge here. With them, he returned to Germany, where he opened a small company that creates all the same sewing machines. The Adam Opel Sewing Machine Factory was founded in 1868. The enterprise developed rapidly - within a year it employed 40 people.
By 1886 the company had 300 employees. At this time, the factory already began to master the production of carriage wheels. Not long before that, in 1884, Adam Opel visited an exhibition in France. There he saw a new type of transport - a bicycle, deciding to master its production at his plant.
Soon the first bicycle from the Opel company appeared. Until 1895, the company was able to produce two thousand such devices, while remaining also the largest sewing machine manufacturer in all of Germany. It was Opel who first created inflatable tires for bicycles.
And in 1895, Adam Opel died, leaving his business in the care of five heirs at once. His sons - Friedrich, Karl, Ludwig, Heinrich and Wilhelm have long been helping their father at the factory. The Opel brothers became famous for their love of sports. They were actively involved in bike racing. This passion, together with victories, made the name of the company famous not only in Germany, but also in Europe.
In 1897, a motor show was opened in Berlin, where the famous Opel brothers were also invited. They were amazed at the sight of the new car, and immediately decided to start its production. After all, this promised good prospects. Only for the production of machines a patent was also needed.
The required document was purchased in January 1899, and Friedrich Lutzmann from Dessau signed an agreement with the company. His factory, which produced self-propelled carriages, became the property of the Opel family. The former owner became the technical director of the new production. In the spring of the same year, the plant produced the first Opel car. From that moment on, it is customary to count the history of the company.
The first car, called the Lutzman Opel, was a single-cylinder car with its engine under the driver's seat. Outwardly, this car looked more like a carriage than a modern car. The design was very original, but also cumbersome. To start the engine, it was necessary to unwind the huge flywheel by hand. That car was not in great demand, but this did not bother the Opel brothers. They understood that one should not expect much success from the first experience. In 1900, a German company entered into a contract with the French Darrak automobile plant.
In 1902, the 10 / 12PS model appeared from the Opel company. This car already boasted a two-cylinder engine with a volume of 1884 cc with a water pump. And he developed a maximum speed of 45 km / h. This car turned out to be quite successful in the market. Good sales helped the brothers improve their finances and start developing their own cars. In the same year, two more similar models were released - the 12/14 had an increased engine capacity, and the 13/30 had an egg-like body. As a result, in 1902, the company was able to become the second largest manufacturer in Germany.
In 1903, the 20 / 24PS model appeared, featuring the company's first four-cylinder engine, as well as an L-shaped valve arrangement. The company's designers managed to connect a pair of engines from the 12/14 model. And in 1905 "Opel" started producing cars of a higher class. So, the 35 / 40PS model had a 6.9 liter engine. However, as before, the main volume of production fell on small cars. The most popular model in those days was the two-seater "Doctorvagen". The machine got its nickname because of its popularity among rural doctors.
In the same 1905, the company begins to build a new plant, which was entirely focused on the production of cars. The factory was named Ludwigsbau in honor of Ernst Ludwig, Duke of Hesse. The following year, the company opens a plant in Berlin and starts producing cars entirely developed in-house at Opel.
In 1906, the company celebrated a significant anniversary - the thousandth car was created. That year was also remarkable for the attempts to create the first armored car from Opel. This model was equipped with 6mm armor. The car even had a pair of machine guns, four rapid-fire pistols, a map table, and even a telescope. Nevertheless, the military novelty did not become serial; Kaiser Wilhelm did not personally like it.
The history of the company was only a few years old, but it was already known all over the world thanks to both successful models and an active sports life. For example, in 1907, in the races organized by the Kaiser, Opel cars not only won, but also attracted the attention of the monarch himself. Wilhelm II even ordered several manufacturers' cars for his personal garage. These cars were somewhat more reliable than production vehicles.
The Opel company is gradually beginning to popularize its products by reducing the cost of cars and their prices for consumers. By 1909, cars with one- and two-cylinder engines had become part of history. Friedrich Opel, also a fan of all kinds of technology, after his trip to America, returned with the idea of unification and standardization of all vehicle components.
In the future, the company widely used this approach when creating its cars. Opel has created a modular system that allows you to create a variety of combinations of chassis, engines and bodies. This is how the foundations of conveyor production were laid.
And in 1911, a fire at a sewing machine factory destroyed most of the enterprise. So "Opel" completely abandoned this direction, focusing on a more urgent one. After that incident, production facilities were significantly reconstructed, and the technical park of machines was updated. This affected the future very quickly.
By 1912, the company boasted a 10,000th car. So Opel becomes the largest automobile company in the country. The company produces more than 3300 cars annually. In those years, the Opel logo appeared, which began to show off both on the cars themselves and in advertising products. It is interesting that the cars of this German manufacturer even got to Russia.
During the First World War, the company produced trucks for military purposes. But experts did not stop research. In 1916, the first car with a 4.7-liter six-cylinder engine appeared. After the end of hostilities, the company, like the whole country, fell into a crisis period.
Opel did not develop so quickly and even lost part of its production capacity. The company managed to stay on the market in difficult years, although only 1,154 cars were produced in 1920. But the most difficult year was 1923, when Opel produced only 910 cars. It’s good that the economy began to recover, and with it, production.
1924 was a landmark year for the company. Opel immediately invested a million gold marks in its modernization, which made it possible to be the first in the country to start assembling cars by conveyor belt method. The company focuses on low cost and easy assembly. The 4 / 12PS model became popular, which was suspiciously similar to the Citroen 5CV (the French manufacturer even sued). From 1924 to 1931, Opel produced 119484 cars of this brand, which became the company's record for the production of cars of one brand.
In 1929, it became clear that a global economic crisis was coming. The company sought a strong patron for itself, eventually becoming part of the General Motors Corporation. This allowed Opel both to retain freedom of action and to strengthen its position in new markets. Representative offices of the company appeared in China, South America and Japan. And in 1935 the Olympia model was presented. The car was the first made in Germany with an all-metal monocoque body.
For two years, Opel produced 82 thousand units. During the assembly of this model, fundamental innovations were carried out that influenced the entire global automotive industry. The car body began to be made separately from the mechanical part, which made it possible to speed up the collection and simplify it. Even before the beginning of World War II, the company managed to release such successful models as Super 6, Admiral, Kapitan.
With the outbreak of World War II, American control was out of the question. The General Motors president even bitterly said that Hitler now runs Opel. During the war, the company was engaged in the creation of weapons and military vehicles for the army. Now "Opel" produced trucks, tractors, howitzers, making money on it. The company became so skilled in the production of heavy vehicles that the emblem from such successful trucks was soon transferred to other cars.
After the end of the war, most of the equipment was removed by the Soviet Union. Having partially restored its capacity, "Opel" began to produce first trucks for the Americans, and since 1947, and passenger cars. A new era in the history of the company began in 1962 with the construction of a new plant in Bochum. It starts producing the Cadet 2 car.
It became a bestseller, with over 11 million units sold in total until 1991. In the 1970s, the company began developing new models that were fundamentally different from those on the market. The fact is that the oil crisis put forward new requirements for machines, so the company's designers began to look for more economical solutions.
In 1971, the company produced its 10 millionth car. In the 1980s, she begins to work on reducing exhaust emissions. Opel is one of the first to equip its cars with catalytic converters, which helped to reduce the amount of harmful substances in the exhaust.
In the 1990s, the company focuses on improving passenger safety. Since 1995, all Opel cars have been equipped with airbags.
Today the Opel company continues to develop successfully, delighting with new models. In the post-war period alone, more than forty of them appeared. And more than 25 thousand people work for a German company.