Currently reading: Vauxhall boss sets out his plan for recovery in Europe
Karl-Thomas Neumann, Vauxhall-Opel chairman, talks about GM’s fightback, joint ventures and his aims in the UK

Karl-Thomas Neumann has been chairman of Vauxhall-Opel for just over a year. In that time, parent company GM has firmed up its European strategy, pulled Chevrolet out of Europe and started to co-develop new models with PSA Peugeot-Citroën.

An electrical engineer by training, Neumann joined GM from Volkswagen, where he was running the group’s interests in China. Previously, he was VW’s head of electronics R&D.

GM has been recovering from the darks days of chapter 11 bankruptcy protection  in 2009. How is the European recovery going?

“We said we will break even in the middle of the decade, the latest by 2016. Last year we improved our result by 50 per cent. For the first time for 14 years, we kept market share.”

Can you update us on your joint ventures with PSA?

“Last year we sorted a number of things out and I met [new PSA boss] Carlos Tavares on his first day, shook his hand and said this is how we are progressing. Number one is logistics; this is the simplest. Last year we already saved around €60 million each. Second is purchasing and we now have the second-largest purchasing volume in Europe.”

What about shared car projects?

“We’re going to build three cars together: Meriva, Zafira and next-gen Combo van. We will do this on a PSA platform with PSA engines. We will make sure it is an Opel using some of our modules but their platform.”

Why share platforms when GM has huge global volume?

“Vauxhall-Opel is the third-biggest car company in Europe — we sell one million cars a year — but this is not enough when you have the spectrum we do.”

You announced a project to co-develop a hatchback with PSA. Is that cancelled?

“We did have an agreement to build a next-generation small car. But it was a wrong decision, because our car would have left the GM platform programme. I prefer to use a GM platform for the small car because I can use our engines and technologies.”

Will there be more shared models/platforms with PSA?

“The three I mentioned and that’s it for the moment. There may be more in a few years.”

Vauxhall will challenge for number one spot in the UK. What progress is it making?

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“Just to define it: we meant number one in retail and number one in true fleet. 
What we won’t do is chase number one for the pure sake 
of the number one spot and throw money at daily rental. Vauxhall will be run to get profitable business.” 
[New Vauxhall boss Tim Tozer contributed to this answer.]

Chevrolet is pulling out of Europe. Where does that place Vauxhall-Opel?

"This decision gives Opel and Vauxhall full confidence from Detroit, so all the burden is on our shoulders now. GM can only be successful as a leading car maker in the world if we have a strong stake in Europe, so we can’t give up Europe.”

What went wrong for Chevrolet in Europe?

“The budget versus premium brand pitch didn’t work, because we had increasingly similar cars based on the same global modular architectures.” 

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turbinecol 8 April 2014

Quietly backing down

So, they've re-defined their target to be the actual number 1 and quietly moved on the sales rep who came out with it in the first place. Clever stuff....
Paul Dalgarno 27 March 2014

Not one word about great new products.....

A lot of good business practice with logistics, purchasing, and platform sharing, but where's the good news about great new products that are better than other main stream manufacturers, great new design, etc? People will buy attractive cars with good dynamics, it's not rocket science!

Truth is they have an ageing range of mediocre cars, with very few highlights. They also need to fire their marketing company badly - they have been marketed so badly for so many years I'm not surprised their image is on the floor.

Granturismo 26 March 2014

I had an astra as a rental

I had an astra as a rental car a few weeks back.

It was awful. Underpowered, crap gearbox, cheap interior and I've never seen so many buttons on a car.

danielcoote 27 March 2014

The LED light loving fraternity are out in spades here....

Ok so what most of the guys on this forum (and other Autocar one's) really want to do is 'get off' with one another on how their VAG group cars are so (allegedly) know the 'brain-washed by the canny salesman lot' who are suckers for LED lights, s-line packs @2k (which instantly make them look like bell-ends) - yeah; that lot folks (sorry - I'm speaking to the potential reader who just like's all motors and reserves opinion on certain manufacturers until sampling their products for longer than a couple of days).

A few (albeit personal) observations on this lot and VAG products:

1) They are happy and content supporting the (largely) German car industry (please THINK about that VAG guys - and not just in the usual anti-way but in terms of financial recovery of the UK - Astra at Ellsemere, Honda at Swindon etc etc),

2) Countless recent articles and the usual suspect surveys actually reveal that VAG products are quite often a pain in the ar*e (type in MK7 Golf problems into Google and find out for yourself). DSG problems - and don't give me the chestnut "but UK cars weren't affected" sh*te - in addition to trim, steering and suspension rattles on the MK7 Golf etc etc),

3) Seriously, if I see another broken down VW Passat or Audi A5 in my travels I will have to stop the car to avoid crashing in laughter,

4) Can't decide if the 1 series BMW rump or the back of the new Golf gets the 'most ugly rear-end' award,

5) The A1 and esp the soft-top version have got to be the most 'girly' looking car on the planet today - so, so annoying looking (almost up to pink Fiat 500 levels),

6) VAG products are so DARK inside. Lighten the **ck up!! (you only live once :@>); and

7) Audi's (in particular) look so, so, so similar to one another it's a joke - your ''upmarket" brand is not going to LOOK very upmarket for much longer.

OK so I'm being a little silly here (but I believe to have a good point or two).... but honestly, you German car lovers are doing my box in here....

I can't even escape to the 'other side' for reading intelligent comments on articles - their magazine is largely funded by German car industry!