FRANKFURT -- Demand for the new Opel Astra helped propel the General Motors subsidiary to its best quarterly result in five years as volume rose 8 percent to about 303,000 vehicles during the period.
Sales of the Astra, which was crowned 2016 European Car of the Year last month, rose by about 40 percent to 37,000 units in the quarter, the automaker said in a statement.
In March, the company's sales increased 4 percent to nearly 143,000 vehicles.
The strong start is good news for Opel and its UK sister brand, Vauxhall, as the unit tries to break even after more than a decade of losses.
Opel Group CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann has steadily worked to improve the company's net transaction prices across the range, but he forecast early last year that profitability was only possible once the fifth-generation Astra finally launched. GM is scheduled to publish first-quarter financial results on April 21. Last year its European arm, which effectively comprises only Opel and Vauxhall, narrowed its adjusted operating loss to $800 million from $1.4 billion in 2014.
Opel/Vauxhall has received about 150,000 orders for the Astra since the hatchback version of the compact debuted last October. Opel has tried to lure customers away from rivals such as the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf by giving the new Astra features that are not typically found in the segment, such as its intelligent matrix LED lights that allow the car to use its high beams without blinding oncoming traffic.
The Astra Sports Tourer, which will enter the compact wagon niche that is popular in much of Western Europe, arrives in showrooms starting Saturday in Germany, with more new product to come.
“The Mokka X will add further impetus later this year,” sales chief Peter Christian Kuespert said in the statement, referring to this autumn’s face-lift of its popular subcompact crossover. “We are well on track to increasing our sales considerably in 2016.”