General Motors is restructuring its sales, marketing and aftersales operations in Europe to give its Opel, Chevrolet Europe and Saab brands more autonomy.
The change will allow each brand to be more responsive to market conditions, Brent Dewar, GM Europe's head of sales, marketing and aftersales told Automotive News Europe.
"This year will be as challenging as 2008. We want to speed up decision making and focus our resources," Dewar said.
The initiative will see three executives named brand leaders, effective March 1.
Alain Visser will be vice president for Opel with responsibility for promoting the German brand. Currently, Visser is GM Europe's chief marketing officer.
Wayne Brannon will become vice president responsible for Chevrolet sales in Europe. Currently, Brannon is executive director of Chevrolet Europe.
Jan-Ake Jonsson, currently managing director of Saab, will add responsibility for Saab's marketing and sales in Europe.
Dewar said GM Europe's multi-brand structure had served the carmaker well but "we will now transfer to a set-up with more autonomy for the individual brands."
Dewar said the three brands will launch key models this year, which will allow each marque to have its own marketing strategy.
Opel will launch a new generation of its Astra lower-medium car, Chevrolet will introduce the Cruze lower-medium car and Saab will launch a new 9-5 medium-premium car.
GM said it will have an opportunity to stress the differences between the brands.
"Chevrolet is very different from Opel and both are different from Saab," Dewar said.
Chevrolet is GMs value-for-money brand in Europe. Opel is its volume seller and Saab is near-premium.
Chevrolet's Brannon said the restructuring will boost the brand's profile in Europe. "We intend to be more of a player in Europe," he said.
Despite the economic downturn, Chevrolet increased its European sales by 10.7 percent to 507,000 cars last year.
Saab's Jonsson the new structure would give the Swedish brand greater responsiveness to the markets. "We will not be working through many different layers and we can better focus our brand," he said.
GM's sales in Europe including Russia and Turkey fell 6.5 percent to 2.04 million units in 2008 compared with 2007, the company said last month. Its European market share fell to 9.2 per cent from 9.4 percent.
Sales of Opel and its sister brand Vauxhall fell 10.5 percent to 1.63 million after the financial crisis spread into key western markets such as the UK and Spain.
Opel is seeking about $1.4 billion in financial guarantees from the German government in case parent GM files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S.
Saab's global sales fall 25.5 percent to 93,338 units. GM has launched a review of the Swedish brand with options including a sale.