By on March 7, 2012

It hasn’t been much of a secret that Opel is working on a small car, called the Junior, to take on BMW’s Mini, or Fiat’s 500. As a matter of fact, Opel had been working on the Junior since 1982. Way back when, the interior of the Junior had been designed by a new arrival in Rüsselsheim, a freshly graduated Chris Bangle. People who expected to see a Junior in Geneva were disappointed. Instead,”General Motors will launch its new small car, the Junior, at the Paris show next autumn,” just-auto was told in Geneva.

The bigger news: The Junior “will be strictly for Europe and unable to challenge the global success of the Mini, or take on the Fiat 500 in America, engineering head Rita Forst admitted” to just-auto.

The interesting part is the alleged why.

Rita Forst laid it out to just-auto:

“The Junior is a very specific car for the European market and is so important for Vauxhall and Opel. There are a lot of markets where the Junior meets the regulations, but only in Europe. We decided not to go for ‘federalization’ because it would have increased the development time by one-and-half years..”

Veery interesting. Through Opel’s engineering head, GM admits that a car that meets all regulations of Europe would add one-and-half years to its development time if the car is supposed to be up to U.S. specs. This from the same company that keeps (through its mouthpiece, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers) pounding the table to protest against non-tariff  barriers that act as a handy excuse for the absolutely atrocious sales of American autos in Japan.

QED: One of the world’s most formidable non-tariff barrier is around the U.S. (and by extension Canada.) To get past it, even a GM would  have to spend inordinate amounts of time and money. If Rita Forst isn’t just blowing smoke, that is.

 

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20 Comments on “No Opel Junior Coming To America. Opel Tech Chief Blames American Non-Tariff Barriers...”


  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    Implement reciprocity for equivalent but different safety standards. Remove import restrictions. And tell any automaker who complains about the situation to pound sand and hire someone to hang out at the shipyards, the better to take careful notes as to what shows up on the ramps. Having easily ordered ceramic-cased loudspeakers from Italy, feature films from France, music discs from Germany and integrated amplifiers from Serbia, I find the artificial barriers placed around the USA’s automobile market to be absurd and insulting.

    • 0 avatar
      charly

      Feature films from France don’t play in your dvd player. Wrong region.

      • 0 avatar
        Felis Concolor

        Don’t blame me for your lack of multi-region playback hack knowledge. Heck, it’s hard to find a decent Pioneer unit that isn’t already enabled for the world market. Don’t take that silkscreened symbol on the back of the unit as gospel.

      • 0 avatar
        S2L2SC

        Yes they will – If you have an all-region or region free DVD player or use multiple players. I routinely order Germany language DVD’s, so I know how to get around that little problem.

        Dedicated DVD player on your computer will work also.

  • avatar
    carbiz

    Yes, that’s why more than half the vehicles sold in the U.S. are from foreign auto makers. Those barriers must be a mile high (or 1.6 km, at least!)
    And the Japanese or Koreans? What’s their ‘foreign’ imports like? 5%? 8%?

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      In Korea, imports presently make up over 10% of sales and the nos. are rising and this doesn’t take into account foreign-owned automakers like GM Korea and Renault-Samsung.

      In addition, US automakers are each given an exemption where 20k vehicles don’t have to meet Korean safety or emissions standards, something that isn’t granted to German or Japanese automakers.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    Another very small fuel efficient car would not be welcome next to the Chevy Volt in dealerships.

    • 0 avatar

      This has nothing to do with the Volt, which is not actually a particularly small car. But it might have a lot to do with the Chevy Sonic and Spark, which are.

      There was some talk that the Junior would come here as a Cadillac, but I think that’s no longer in the cards. It’s still a mystery to me how GM can justify developing two mechanically-unrelated cars in this class (this and the Spark) given their supposed all-out efforts to consolidate global architectures, but whatever.

  • avatar
    obruni

    those barriers were not a problem for the Sonic.

    but why even bother competing with the Mini and 500?

    Why add another small hatch when the Sonic and Spark exist, with the Cruze hatch on the way?

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    The base advertised price of a Sonic is $13k and change. The base price of a Versa is around $10k. They can blame tariff barriers all they want. The market wouldn’t support it.

  • avatar
    Feds

    I’ll let you read up on it yourselves, but as I understand it NAFTA is going to circumvent federalization:

    http://forum.ivoac.ca/forumdisplay.php?f=92

    Starting in ’09, NAFTA allowed importation of 10 year old vehicles from Mexico. In ’10, 9 year old vehicles, on down the line until in ’19 you can buy a new car in Mexico and import it to the US and Canada.

    Where it gets interesting is that Mexico supports ECE standards, so anything legal in Europe is legal in Mexico, and by extension the US and Canada. So theoretically, right now, you could import a 7 year old European anything into Mexico then bring it to the US or Canada. Good luck with the paperwork though.

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    So, how is GM to blame for the high cost of developing vehicles for the American market???

    The costs involve compliance and certification with government regulations, which often are at odds with attributes desired by European buyers, large rear openings in small vehicles, for example.

    Perhaps you haven’t noticed that the price of entry to the North American market keeps very many vehicles styles out due to poor business case. These companies are in it for the money, you know.

    As for Japan’s barriers, It is not only American’s who do poorly there. All imports combined account for only a very, very small sliver of the Japanese market. BTW,they actually do have trade barriers I will not get into here. The only barrier here is that a vehicle must be good enought to meet all of our regulatory requirements.

  • avatar
    TireIrony

    Consider the mass and design implications of different safety standards, and how important mass and design are to selling small cars at a profit, and it’s no surprise why this car didn’t get federalized.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    This sounds like so much whining from the Chief Engineer of Opel.

    For shame.

    It seems like there wasn’t that large of a hurdle to federalize the Astra when it came over here a few years ago as a Saturn. I don’t know why a US federalization plan isn’t part of the original engineering specifications.

    I would assume that GM doesn’t want competition for the Spark and Sonic, which based on the photos, looks like this car might compete against. There was that issue of internecine warfare that was supposed to be resolved with the BK, right?

    Also, I can’t imagine how well this would compete with the Mini and the Fiat 500; although so far we’ve seen that the 500 is having a rough launch and the Mini doesn’t appeal to me very much. (I may not be the target market, though.) Which NA GM livery would it appear in? Chevy’s got enough pint sized cars, at least for a while. Buick? How would a Sonic-sized Buick (I’m assuming from the pix) help to avoid internal warfare?

    As much as I would like to buy a small Opel here in the US, this wouldn’t appeal to me badged as a Buick. This sounds like sour grapes from GME against GMNA and the regulatory issue is a straw man argument.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      “I would assume that GM doesn’t want competition for the Spark and Sonic”

      The Junior (Agila) is a city car. The Spark is a subcompact. Different size classes.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    “The Junior is a very specific car for the European market and is so important for Vauxhall and Opel.”

    It’s important for Opel. Not important for General Motors.

    Opel-Vauxhall has been selling a city car in Europe, but it is a badge-engineered Suzuki. Presumably, this has the Opel folks a bit worried; when an organization is at risk of shrinking, then those within it would probably like to make themselves a bit more useful.

    This probably has a whole lot more to do with GM internal politics than it does with US emissions and safety equipment. GM does not want to sell city cars to Americans, but if it did, then it would source them from Korea. Detroit has no interest in helping Russelsheim to do things that the old Daewoo is meant to do.

  • avatar
    dtremit

    If Opel had designed the car from the start with federalization in mind, it could have been federalized in a lot less than 18 months. This isn’t evidence of trade barriers, but rather Opel’s flawed development process — and honestly, an admission that the thing probably wouldn’t sell well enough in the US to justify the cost.

    Besides, it’s not like you can take a car meeting US standards and sell it in Europe without modifications.

  • avatar
    obruni

    “GM does’t want to sell city cars to Americans”

    “The Spark is a subcompact. The Agila is a city car”

    oh, I love TTAC commenter ignorance.

    The Agila is BIGGER than the Spark. The Agila is 4 inches longer, a foot wider, and over 220 pounds heavier than the Spark when comparing euro-spec trims.

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