25 years ago this month, Opel made strides in reducing emissions by becoming the only European manufacturer to have an entire gasoline range fitted with catalytic converters as standard. The decision was made by recently appointed CEO Louis R. Hughes, who was driven to do so for environmental concerns and possible tax incentives.
Not long after Hughes took office, 19 out of 20 gasoline-powered Opels were sold with a catalytic converter installed. Opel was able to implement the use of a catalytic converter before other European manufacturers, due in part to its ties with General Motors. In North America, most gasoline engines had been fitted with a catalytic converter since 1975, whereas it didn’t become the law in Europe until 1992.
“Cars equipped with converters were environmentally friendly and customers benefited from tax breaks. Additionally, since we are part of General Motors, we leveraged the know-how and technologies used for the U.S. which required converters and therefore were better prepared to take the plunge,” explained Engineering Group Manager, Andreas Dindorf.
Opel began to work on the European catalytic converter in 1984 and invested the equivalent of €500 million throughout its development. Prior to this, modified U.S. converters were imported into Europe, as GM was the biggest manufacturer of converters at the time.
Today, thanks to the catalytic converter and other steps taken towards greater efficiency, emissions have been reduced to less than 10 percent of pre-catalytic converter levels. Opel says they are committed to lowering them even further and are at the forefront of developing other environmentally friendly technologies.
“Between 2013 and the end of 2016, Opel will bring in three fully new engine families and 13 new variants including numerous frugal derivatives with even lower emissions. Additionally, the company is proactively rolling out products that go over and above compliance with legal requirements,” Vice President GME Engineering Michael Ableson said in a statement.