The Opel/Vauxhall Agila is General Motors' answer to the question of how to design and develop a competitive entrant in Europe's emerging minicar segment.
The Agila, which is based on Suzuki's new Wagon R+, is built at General Motors' new plant in Gliwice, Poland.
Martin Larsson, supervisor Sub-S program coordination at Opel, said his main job was to manage the relationship between GM and Suzuki. That was unusual, as GM program managers normally concentrate on concept development. 'Sub-S' is GM's term for the car segment below supermini.
Suzuki has a longstanding expertise in producing minicars, while Opel stylists helped give the Agila a European flavor. The Agila's styling - especially the hood and grille design - define it clearly as a member of GM's European family.
GM aimed for high quality early on in the Agila program. The Gliwice plant, which opened in autumn 1998, is modeled on Opel's highly efficient factory in Eisenach, Germany.
Larsson said Gliwice employs state-of-the-art production processes to ensure similarly high standards of quality. About 80,000 Agilas a year will be made at Gliwice, which also builds the Astra.
A large proportion of the Agila's parts are sourced from central European countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary, said Larsson. He put the figure at between 25-30 percent.
Larsson said one of the best aspects of the Agila program was the speed at which decisions were pushed through. The product development team was smaller than is usual at Opel, which helped accelerate the decision-making process. Larsson said extra care was taken to make the right people available at the right time in the program to ensure that GM received a product in line with expectations.