Opel/Vauxhall has come to its senses. The automaker planned to focus on the wrong product at the Geneva auto show -- its second-generation Insignia -- while leaving its all-new Crossland X small crossover behind. Thankfully, the company changed its mind.
The Insignia family is important for the brand’s image, since the latest innovations are showcased in the flagship model line, but the midsize sedan and wagon segment is not where the brand is going to win a lot of buyers or make a big impact anymore.
That segment is carved up between the German premium brands and Volkswagen’s Passat (see table, bottom). There’s little to suggest Opel/Vauxhall will be able to break this dominance. Last year, the Insignia family failed to crack Europe’s list of top 50 sellers, according to JATO Dynamics data.
Opel has some major fundamental flaws in its business: it is landlocked in a region that lives only from replacement demand; its vehicle manufacturing footprint is almost entirely in high-wage Western Europe; and prior to CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann’s arrival, it had long neglected the lucrative light commercial vehicle market.
Perhaps its most glaring problem, however, was its failure to capitalize on the Europe’s SUV/crossover boom. As the segment started to heat up Opel debuted the Korea-built, badge-engineered Antara SUV in 2006. The Antara was a flop, despite arriving a year ahead of the Nissan Qashqai. Antara sales in Europe dipped to 7,003 units in 2015, its last year on the market, while the Qashqai finished with a segment-leading 232,788 sales that year. Opel was a non-player in Europe’s SUV/crossover segment until 2012, which is when the Mokka arrived.