Opel hopes Adam will help it win back European drivers
EISENACH, Germany -- Opel started production of the Adam minicar at its Eisenach plant in Germany today as the General Motors unit strives to win back European customers amid the worst regional auto industry downturn for nearly two decades.
Opel invested 190 million euros ($248 million) to prepare the factory, which also builds the Corsa subcompact, to make the Adam, which is named after the 151-year-old brand's founder, the carmaker said today in a statement.
To cut engineering costs, Opel designed the Adam on a shortened version of the Opel Corsa's platform. The Adam also will share the Corsa's paint shop, body shop and assembly line, thus reducing manufacturing costs.
"The Adam plays an important role as a sign of life for the Opel brand," said Christoph Stuermer, a Frankfurt-based analyst at IHS Automotive. He added that from a volume point of view, "the Corsa is much more important," with Opel likely to sell one Adam for every 10 deliveries of the Corsa.
The Adam is priced starting at 11,500 euros in Germany, compared with 9,975 euros for an entry-level version of the Volkswagen Up and 11,600 euros for the retro-designed Fiat 500.
More than 16,000 orders have been placed for the Adam, which will enter showrooms on Jan. 19, Opel said.
The GM division, based in the Frankfurt suburb of Ruesselsheim, is encouraging Adam purchasers to order the car from dealers rather than buy it on the spot. Options enable drivers to choose as many as 61,000 exterior and 82,000 interior design combinations including different colors for separate external parts and trim as well as a range of materials and lighting for the interior.
Customers ordering an Adam can be certain that they "won't see an identical car," Thomas Sedran, Opel's interim chief executive officer, said in the statement. "Almost every Adam will be unique."
The design range compares with 500,000 potential variations offered for the Fiat 500, according to Claus Witzeck, a spokesman in Frankfurt for the Italian company.
Opel hopes to sell 40,000 to 50,000 Adams a year and aims to target a "younger, urban customer" with the vehicle, Opel engineering chief Michael Ableson said in a recent interview.
Opel is introducing 23 vehicles from 2012 through 2016, including the South Korea-built Mokka subcompact SUV, which went on sale in October, and the Cascada convertible, which starts deliveries this year.
The new models are part of a global GM strategy that also includes refreshing 70 percent of its U.S. brands' lineup over a year and a half. Opel faces an extra challenge as European carmakers' sales are set to shrink a sixth consecutive year.
GM CEO Dan Akerson told reporters in Detroit on Wednesday that he sees Europe's market "weakening," and that "Germany looks like it could be slipping into recession."
GM's efforts to revive profit in Europe include setting up a partnership last year with PSA/Peugeot-Citroen, while scaling back production at older factories. Opel will stop producing cars at its 3,100-employee plant in Bochum, Germany, in 2016 in the first shutdown of an auto plant in the country since World War II. GM closed a factory in Antwerp, Belgium, in 2010 and is selling a transmission plant in Strasbourg, France, that employs about 1,000 people.
GM's losses in Europe since 1999 have totaled $17.3 billion. The carmaker has a target of bringing regional operations to break-even by 2015.
Sales by Opel and its UK sister brand Vauxhall fell 14.7 percent to 781,662 in the first 11 months in EU and EFTA markets, according to data from the industry organization ACEA.Contact Automotive News