Opel/Vauxhall will become a pure full-electric brand in Europe by 2028 and by 2024 will only sell hybrid cars. Former Renault executive Uwe Hochgeschurtz, who became Opel CEO on Sept. 1, sees electrification as a big opportunity for the automaker. Hochgeschurtz spoke with Automotive News Europe's sister publication Automobilwoche.
With the new Astra, Opel has the chance to raise awareness of the brand. Is that your mission?
I see it as my task to further raise the brand's profile internationally and to emotionalize it. Our new, outstanding models, such as the Mokka and the Corsa, are particularly important here. The Astra is another big step forward. We will now be able to make better use of our "made in Germany" quality in communications than in the past. And of course, we will also make greater use of the fact that we have committed to a particularly rapid and broad electrification of our portfolio. From 2024, there will be an electrified version for every model -- not many competitors will manage that.
Opel often has a better image abroad than in Germany, for example in Russia, Turkey or in the UK with Vauxhall.
It's not correct to say that our image is only good abroad. But of course, you can and must always work on improving the brand image; a little more is always possible. But it is true that Opel enjoys an excellent reputation in many countries, and we will of course use this to expand our international presence.
There are still many traditionally-minded Opel customers. Will they support electrification?
Electrification will make the Opel brand more modern and younger. And as a result, our customers will also become more modern and younger -- not in terms of biological age, but in their attitude toward mobility. Opel can help these customers change their mobility mindset, rejuvenate it. Because electrified Opel models, like the Corsa-e and Mokka-e, are something for the heart. We always say the "e" does not just stand for electric, but for emotional.
When it comes to mobility services, what is next for Opel? Stellantis is not considered strong in this area.
Opel will be part of this development. At Stellantis, we have a strong brand with Free2move, which will become even stronger. The upcoming Rocks-e [Opel's version of the two-set Citroen Ami microcar] can also certainly play a role for new mobility services.
What are your priorities at the moment? Are you studying financial figures, looking into the product pipeline, or driving cars on the test track?
The most important thing is to enter into dialog. I seek dialog with employees, with retail partners. On my first day at work, for example, I sent a video message to all employees and wrote to our dealers.
How well do you know Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares?
I know Carlos Tavares well and have done for many years. I would not be here if I hadn't spoken to him personally. By the way, he says he grew up with an Opel Manta. He knows the brand very, very well.
You are not being afraid of publicity. Do you relish the task of being Opel's brand ambassador?
Being a brand ambassador is clearly the first task of any CEO. In this rapidly changing world, you need clear orientation, clear messages and also a brand "face" to present to the outside world. This has never been as important as it is today.