Adam Opel – Autó-Motor founded his company 160 years ago

As the eldest son of master locksmith Phillip Wilhelm Opel from Rüsselsheim, Adam was supposed to carry on his father’s workshop, but he had other plans. During his apprenticeship, he spent a long time in the cities of Lüttich, Brussels, London and Paris, where he decided to manufacture sewing machines, and when he returned home to his native village of 2,000 inhabitants at the end of August 1862, he started working in the workshop next to his parents’ house. Adam Opel built the first sewing machine in 6 months, which the local tailor Hummel then used for 40 years.

He sets up his first own workshop in his uncle’s cowshed in 1863, Georg’s brother sends him raw materials from Paris, with the help of which he assembles 1 sewing machine in just 6 weeks, and also receives used sewing machines, which he resells after repairs. The business will soon be successful, Adam Opel will hire his first employees this year. In 1868, he built a new, two-story production hall with a steam engine, along with a residential and office building, where the company already had 40 employees. In 1869, he married Sophie, who works as an accountant. The company is constantly expanding, not least because they manufacture sewing machines based on special needs, in 1886 they were already producing 18,000 pieces per year.


Adam Opel saw a bicycle for the first time during a trip to Paris in 1884, and then quickly bought one. Finally, after studying several French and British designs, the Opel company began producing bicycles in 1886, and the first bicycle price list was published in the fall of 1887. In 1890, Opel already produces 2,200 bicycles a year, and the 5 children of Adam and Sophie Opel (Carl, Wilhelm, Heinrich, Friedrich and Ludwig) take part in the promotion of this division, who win a total of 550 races. Working with continuous innovations, Adam Opel was familiar with automobiles, but for a long time he had an aversion to them because he saw them as competition for bicycles. Shortly before his death, he gave in and ordered a Phaeton 4PS from Rheinischen Gasmotorenfabrik Benz & Cie, the factory’s 120th car, which he used from March 14, 1895 until his death on September 8.

Opel became a car manufacturer by acquiring the Anhaltische Motorwagenfabrik, founded by Friedrich Lutzmann, on January 21, 1899, and with the help of its machines, production of the Opel Patent-Motorwagen System Lutzmann began that same year, of which the 1,000th copy was sold in 1906 . The breakthrough took place the following year, when the Opel car factory became a supplier to the imperial court. In the meantime, bicycle production also develops, the industry survives the collapse of 1898 – many new manufacturers flooded the market with cheap products, and then a wave of bankruptcies – thanks to Opel’s innovations, Opel expands into the world’s largest bicycle manufacturer by the twenties, the assembly line in 1923 after its introduction, 1 bicycle is produced every 7 seconds, and the products are sold by 15,000 retailers worldwide. Sewing machine production is abandoned after a big fire in the Rüsselsheim factory in 1911.

Since an economic crisis was predicted based on market trends, the Opel family sold the company to General Motors in several installments between 1929-1932 for a total of 154 million Reichsmarks, the American company sold the bicycle production to NSU in 1937 under the title of profile cleaning. After the war production, as a new product, the Frigidaire refrigerators belonging to GM at the time also began to be manufactured in Rüsselsheim, the refrigerators, which at that time were still very expensive, costing roughly half the price of a car, were sold in car showrooms; their production ends in the fifties. The Opel family starts many businesses from its wealth, including the Opel Zoo, which has existed since 1956, Carlo von Opel produces the first chip in Germany in 1962, the Chio brand name refers to his own and his parents’ names – Carlo, Heinz and Irmgard von Opel.

Source: Autó-Motor by

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