Karl-Thomas Neumann is an electrical engineer by trade, but has been in charge of Vauxhall-Opel for just over a year
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?
“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.”