FRANKFURT (Reuters) -- General Motors' European transformation is gathering momentum, with the vast majority of its former Chevrolet dealers in the region now selling only Opel-branded vehicles to boost the once-flagging German brand, the automaker said.
GM said last year it would mothball Chevrolet in Europe to concentrate on ramping up the market share of Ruesselsheim-based Opel and its UK sister brand Vauxhall, bringing an end to the damaging in-house competition that had eroded the profitability of both Opel/Vauxhall and Chevy in the region.
"The dealer transition from Chevy to Opel is working extremely well; 85 percent have converted to selling only Opel," Michael Lohscheller, the chief financial officer of the group's Opel division, said Tuesday.
In the past a customer walked in to a dealership looking for an Opel and ended up walking out with a Chevrolet, Lohscheller explained, adding that Opel will develop a range of models targeting former Chevrolet buyers.
GM has made the turnaround of its European business a top priority after racking up $18 billion in losses over the past 12 years.
"Opel showrooms will become bigger," Lohscheller said. "For us this is a really good opportunity to strengthen the Opel brand. We will try to capture customers who were in the low-price segment [of the market]."
Though sales in Russia appear to be at the mercy of an increasingly fragile economy as the Ukraine crisis continues, Lohscheller said that GM remains "fully on track" to make its European operations profitable by "mid-decade," though he declined to clarify whether that meant next year.
Opel CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann has said in April that the automaker could reach breakeven as soon 2015, which would be a year ahead of target.
In Europe, GM lost $305 million during the second quarter, compared with a $114 million loss a year earlier. The automaker said most of the losses were related to the closure of Opel's assembly plant in Bochum, Germany.
GM had 1,900 Chevrolet dealers in Europe before abandoning the brand. The automaker has announced it will stop Chevy sales in Europe at the end of 2015. although it will continue to use the Chevy brand in Russia.
Opel's six-month European sales were up 8 percent to 473,082 vehicles, according to data from industry association ACEA, but Lohscheller said that new models will further help the brand to boost sales and profitability.
Sales are expected to receive a further boost with the launch of the fifth-generation Opel/Vauxhall Corsa, a subcompact with annual European volume of about 370,000. The new Corsa is due to debut at European showrooms before the end of the year.