GM’s ailing Opel hopes to enter the American and Chinese markets, and through that for a speedier recuperation. It wants to do that under cover: Made in Europe Opels, sold abroad as Buicks. This according to a report in Opel’s hometown paper Mainzer Allgemeine Zeitung.
For Opel to look for salvation in China would be “utter nonsense,” Opel’s CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann told the paper. He knows that an entry in to the Chinese market is costly and risky. It would be less so with an established brand. Therefore, Opel’s management is looking into “exporting more cars to China and the U.S.A., where they would be sold under the Buick brand through Buick distribution channels – if the decision is positive,” Neumann said.
Neumann has plenty China experience from his former job as Volkswagen’s China chief. Whether Buick managers in the U.S. and China will be happy about the idea is a different question. Imported cars carry a 25 percent tariff in China, which makes them a hard sell unless they are in the high luxury segments – where some cars can’t be expensive enough for Chinese tastes.
The European car market is going through a brutal downturn, which is only survivable with strong exports and successful engagements in growth markets: Opel, PSA, and Fiat suffer while Volkswagen, BMW, Daimler thrive. Opel has for long been kept out of most of these markets, whereas Opel platforms underpin many cars sold there by GM.