Opel-Vauxhall has begun forming closer ties with GM’s American-Chinese Buick marque to create “almost a new global brand”, according to CEO Karl-Friedrich Stracke.
The German-British group’s role in the global strategy of parent GM has been redefined, Stracke says. Opel-Vauxhall is to become a “regional brand exporter”, concentrating on fast-expanding markets like Russia and China, positioning its cars above those of Chevrolet, and embracing Buick.
“Opel is not so used to selling premium-like products,” says Stracke, “but we have made a start with the Insignia. We also have begun improving our dealers and customer services, but it is a long journey.”
Stracke batted away suggestions that Detroit might once again be interested in selling GM Europe, something it came close to doing in 2009, to concentrate on marketing its affordable Korean-built Chevrolet models in greater volumes around the world.
He insisted the group strategy for Opel-Vauxhall was “now very clear” and “nicely knitted into the overall strategy”. Detroit bosses want success for GM Europe, he said, and “are only there to help”.
But within 24 hours of Stracke’s reassurances, the Wall Street Journal revealed that GM chiefs were again considering swingeing cuts to their European operations, including the closure of plants at Ellesmere Port and Bochum. Just over a year ago they closed Antwerp, shed 8300 jobs and convinced unions to instigate savings of more than £200 million a year until 2014.
Stracke believes Opel-Vauxhall makes a natural partner for Buick in the GM fold, citing the Insignia-related Buick Regal and forthcoming Opel-Vauxhall Mokka baby SUV (shown this year at Detroit with Buick badges) as examples of a co-operation that will see them “sharing as much as possible”.