The company was founded on 21 January 1863 by Adam Opel, and at first made household goods and became a major producer of sewing machines. The founder died in 1895, with his company the leader in European sewing machines sales and producing over 2,000 bicycles yearly. The first cars were produced in 1898 having bought the rights to the Lutzmann and sold then as Opel-Lutzmann. However, two years later, following the dissolution of the partnership, Opel's son signed a licensing agreement with the French Automobiles Darracq S.A. to manufacture vehicles under the brand name "Opel-Darracq". The vehicles were Opel bodies mounted on a Darracq chassis, powered by a 2-cylinder engine.
In 1906 they started to make cars to their own design which they had first shown in 1902 at the Hamburg Motor Show and from 1907 stopped making the Opel-Darracqs.
In 1911 the factory was virtually destroyed by fire and a new one was built with more up to date machinery and the manufacture of sewing machines dropped. Production now consisted of bicycles, cars and motorcycles. By 1913 they were the largest car maker in Germany.
In March 1929 General Motors bought 80% of the company; increasing this to 100% in 1931. The Opel family gained $33.3 million dollars from the transaction.
- 1862 – Adam Opel begins building and selling sewing-machines.
- 1863 – Opel established as a full-fledged business; hires its first employees.
- 1886 – Bicycle production started; Opel eventually becomes Europe's largest bicycle maker.
- 1899 – Opel introduces its first automobile (the "Patent Motor Car") and its first utility vehicle.
- 1902 – Designs first shown at the Hamburg Motor Show.
- 1907 – Opel-Darracq shuts down.
- 1911 – Fire destroys much of the Rüsselsheim factory. Sewing-machine production ends with the one-millionth unit.
- 1913 – Opel is the largest automobile company in Germany.
- 1924 – Installation by Opel in Rüsselsheim of Germany's first car production line.
- 1929 – General Motors, impressed by Opel's modern production facilities, buys 80% of the company in March.
- 1929 – Fritz von Opel flies the first manned rocket (a rocketplane).
- 1931 – General Motors increases ownership to 100%.
- 1937 – Bicycle production ends.
- 1938 – GM Vice President James D. Mooney is decorated with the Order of the German Eagle by Adolf Hitler, rewarding his merits for the Wehrmacht.
- 1940 – Nazi regime seizes control of Opel factories, ends all civilian production.
- 1942 – General Motors writes off Opel as a complete loss.
- 1944 – Rüsselsheim and Brandenburg plants badly damaged by Allied bombing.
- 1945 – Soviets seize Kadett production assets as war reparations.
- 1946 – First post-war 'Blitz' truck built.
- 1947 – Passenger car production resumes with the Olympia model.
- 1948 – General Motors reasserts control over surviving Opel assets.
- 1968 – Opel GT introduced.
- 1971 – Opel launched in Asia.
- 1989 – Opel Calibra introduced.
- 2005 – Started cooperation with Saturn Corporation.
- 2006 – Opel Japan shuts down in December.
- 2008 – Solarworld announces bid for Opel .