Gowan Group to take over Opel Ireland

Family business already holds the Peugeot and Honda franchises for the Republic

The Gowan Group is to take control of the Opel brand in the Republic. The company, owned by the Maughan family, already holds the Irish franchises for the Peugeot and Honda motor brands.

The deal, which is subject to regulatory approval, will see the group assume responsibility for all of Opel Ireland’s operations and current Opel employees will transfer on completion of the transaction. Opel currently employs 30 staff at its head office in Sandyford, Dublin. It currently has 27 dealers in its network – including service centres – which are unaffected by the changes, according to an Opel spokeswoman.

While neither party would reveal the financial consideration involved in the deal, Gowan Group is expected to be paying a premium on the net assets of Opel Ireland, which as of the last accounts filed for the company in 2016 were €3 million.

In 2017 the French auto giant PSA Group, which owns the Peugeot and Citroën brands, bought Opel from General Motors. It was expected the takeover would lead to changes in its smaller national operations. This is the seventh national market where Opel has turned to a national importer to take over the brand's operation.

Although Opel has become profitable in Europe again since the PSA buy-out, in the Republic sales have fallen by 14 per cent so far this year, leaving it in 13th place in the sales charts, behind rivals such as Toyota, Ford, Hyundai, and Skoda. It has been a steady fall from grace for the brand, which was the best-seller in the new car market back in 1996. It fell out of the top five best-selling brands in 2011.

Michael Dwan, chief executive of the Gowan Group, told The Irish Times he sees an opportunity to expand the current Opel dealer network, with five or six open points across the State. "The major changes coming down the tracks at Opel is the product pipeline. We're very excited by the new offerings that are due to be launched in the next while.

“Where Opel is today is where Peugeot was five years ago. Since then Peugeot has gone from strength to strength. Where we see big opportunities is in the retail end of the market. Opel is strong in the fleet and car rental market, but we want to improve the profitability across the network and that means increasing the share of the retail sales business.”

Mr Dwan forecast a target of a 7 per cent market share over the next five years for the Opel brand. “Given the product line-up that’s coming, I don’t think that’s wildly optimistic, but we will be trying to grow that profitably rather than just aiming for market share,” he said.

Gowan Group has been involved in motor distribution in Ireland for 50 years, importing Peugeot vehicles since 1969 and Honda vehicles since 1984. Previously, Gowan Group had also distributed Citroën cars in Ireland, through its subsidiary Gallic Distributors, but lost that franchise in 2009, when it moved back to the control of the French parent before ultimately returning to a franchise operation run by the UK-based IM Group.

Along with its motoring operations, the group also owns a retail dealer network that sells Kia and Opel vehicles, and provides after-sales service for Citroen. It is also involved in the distribution of household electronics and kitchen products, through its KAL division, where it holds franchises for brands such as De Dietrich, Nordmende, AGA, Franke, Sharp, Elica, and KitchenAid. It also owns Senator Windows.

The Group currently employs more than 250 people in Ireland. It also has an extensive property and investment division.

Michael McAleer

Michael McAleer

Michael McAleer is Motoring Editor, Innovation Editor and an Assistant Business Editor at The Irish Times