When Opel unveiled the GTC Concept at the Geneva auto show in early March 2007, the team responsible for creating the stylish silver sedan knew they had a head-turner.
Andreas Haefele's mission was to make sure that the concept's production version, which was named the Insignia, would be an image changer for Opel.
Haefele had a big task ahead when he became vehicle line director of the Insignia project in 2006. His aim was to give Opel a car with greater ambitions than its predecessor, the dowdy Vectra sedan and its sister model the Signum station wagon.
Through three years of development, Haefele worked on making the Insignia a brand shaper for Opel.
Haefele needed a combination of product development, design and manufacturing ability to make the new Insignia a car that would steal buyers from rival Volkswagen's Passat and perhaps some premium buyers.
The Insignia also was a key launch for Opel's parent, General Motors Co., as the lead program in GM's development of a new global mid-sized car program.
High tech without high price
The Insignia has created a new design language for Opel and launched technologies that are innovative in the volume segment at an affordable price for buyers.
These technologies included a system that uses a small camera positioned inside the car's windshield to read speed-limit and no-passing signs and relay the information to the driver from the instrument panel. The system also alerts drivers if they unintentionally leave their lane.
Before the Insignia launch, rivals such as the Passat and Ford Mondeo were easily outselling Opel in the mid-sized segment.
In 2007, Opel and sister brand Vauxhall sold 119,078 Vectras and Signums, down from a peak of 195,000.
In the first half, Opel sold more than 73,000 Insignias, which puts the model on track to hit the sales goal of 130,000 units in the first full year of production.
The Insignia was the first Opel model in 22 years to win the European Car of the Year award. Jury members appreciated the car's sleek look and it gained rave reviews for its active and passive safety, comfort and wide array of efficient engines.
The Insignia was a bright spot in a dark year for Opel and GM.
"We've been so passionate in creating and developing the Insignia," Haefele said. "It's still turning heads in the street."