Opel on the offensive
Opel CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann said the brand will continue with the biggest product offensive in its history this year. “Our clear goal is to return to profitability in 2016. To reach this target, we need to further strengthen our brand and to launch the right products,” he told Automotive News Europe on the sidelines of the Detroit auto show last month.
Opel launched a new generation of its European best-seller, the Corsa subcompact, in January and will introduce the Karl entry-level minicar in May to replace the Agila. In the UK, where the Karl will be badged as the Vauxhall Viva, the company expects to sell about 20,000 units of the minicar a year, twice as many as the Agila, a source said. Opel’s product push will continue with the launch of the new-generation Meriva small minivan in 2017 and the Zafira compact minivan’s successor a year later. Both minivans will be based on PSA/Peugeot-Citroen platforms and will get crossover styling that Opel expects to make them more popular. The latest Astra, the brand’s No. 2 seller in Europe, arrives at the end of this year. “The new Corsa and Astra will be the key deciding factors. Combined they make about half of our sales,” Neumann said.
Opel likely will lose the No. 3 spot to Renault this year because the German brand will not see the benefit of Astra sales until 2016, IHS Automotive analyst Ian Fletcher said.
Renault’s vehicle sales have been greatly helped by the success of its Captur subcompact SUV, which has quickly become the brand’s No. 2 seller in Europe after the Clio subcompact. The brand will get a further boost when it joins the booming compact crossover segment in June with the new Kadjar based on the popular Nissan Qashqai. Renault also will launch its fifth-generation Espace large minivan in the spring. Renault’s product momentum will continue next year with the launch of its latest Megane. Currently the Megane is the brand’s third-biggest seller in Europe and a successful replacement would lift sales significantly. A new version of the slow-selling Laguna midsize sedan will arrive in 2016. The Laguna is expected to grow in size and also replace the Latitude sedan, a company source said. Most likely, the Laguna name will be dropped.
Renault’s chairman for Europe, Stefan Mueller, told Automotive News Europe at last year’s Geneva auto show that the company wants to become Europe’s No. 2-selling brand by 2017. Opel has a longer-range goal to reach the No. 2 spot. Neumann said at last year’s Geneva show that he aims to achieve the target by 2022.