Thomas Kuelpp, chief information officer at Opel, talks about how the carmaker is separating IT systems from GM, and joing up with PSA.

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Opel CIO Kuelpp says IT has already achieved substantial savings (Photo: Claus Dick)

Following a change in corporate ownership, IT at Opel and its sister brand Vauxhall is facing a huge challenge: On one hand, CIO Thomas Kuelpp has to disentangle more than 1,000 applications from the General Motors system world. On the other, his team is preparing to integrate into France’s PSA Group, which acquired the company from GM last year. In an interview with automotiveIT, Kuelpp makes it clear that this balancing act is painful in many respects. But Opel IT also stands to benefit from a new degree of freedom.

Mr. Kuelpp, the business press has focused on the integration of Opel/Vauxhall into the PSA Group and the company’s opportunities for the future. There really hasn’t been anything on IT. But you must have your hands full.

Thomas Kuelpp: That’s exactly right. We have been working at full speed for months on the conversion of corporate IT, which had been integrated into the GM world to a high degree – now we have to extricate it piece by piece. This is a complicated, time-intensive process. It doesn’t just involve technical issues – it also deals with the protection of the intellectual property on both sides. Of course, we have to drive integration into the PSA Group’s IT landscape at the same time, and leverage synergies as quickly as possible.

Sounds like a packed agenda…

It certainly is. Every one of the roughly 600 employees working in Opel/Vauxhall IT has plenty to do. But this is very exciting and motivating for the whole team. In addition, regular business operations have to keep running without disruption, with the usual high quality. Development, production, dealer operations and other areas of the company depend on our IT systems, which support them in their daily work.

Many of these tasks were surely foreseeable before the sale. Is that why a chief information officer was appointed at Opel headquarters in Ruesselsheim?

Opel/Vauxhall’s entire IT leadership had been based in Ireland. It made sense to move the CIO’s location to Germany to meet the current needs for short decision-making paths and fast implementation.

You have ambitious performance and service goals for IT at Opel. What has changed since the company was sold by GM to PSA?

The feeling of dependence on Detroit is gone. And we can actually make decisions more quickly now. We’re at the wheel, and we don’t have to wait for instructions, whether we’re deciding how to design our processes or where to deploy our resources. At the PSA Group’s financial press conference in early March, the attendees repeatedly heard that IT has already achieved substantial savings potential. That is motivating us to stay on course.