By on July 5, 2013

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GM wants to move Opel upmarket (again,) to allow more breathing space for Chevrolet in Europe, Reuters reports. Frustrated Opel dealers say GM needs to declare what it wants, and stick with it for a change.

“We need to rebuild the Opel brand,” Chevrolet Chief Alan Batey told Reuters. “As we do that, that gives us the opportunity to move Opel and Vauxhall up a little bit, which creates potentially a value opportunity for Chevy. We try and make sure we have as little overlap as possible.”

Chevrolet failed to carve out a meaningful market share in Europe, and recently lost a lot of the little it had gained. January through May, Chevrolet’s European sales were down 31.5 percent. Opel’s EU sales were down 6.4 percent in the same period. Sales of Chevrolet and Opel are not down due to cannibalization. They are down in a murderous European market, where established brands fight for survival, and where new brands are trampled in the wild stampede.

Moving a brand up-market is an arduous exercise. It takes iron discipline, a lot of time, and even more money. Opel has none of them. 40 years ago, Audi’s image was worse than that of Opel – but GM can’t wait 40 years to take Opel around. The direction of Opel’s branding usually changes with the CEO, and CEOs change around once a year at Op0el, recently more often than that.

In 2010, Nick Riley, Opel’s CEO at the time, wanted to move Opel upmarket. Reilly’s successor, Karl-Friedrich Stracke, said Opel moved the brand up market too fast and lost some of its more cost-conscious customers. Short term interim-chief Steve Girsky wanted to go up again: “Think of a Volkswagen-Skoda kind of thing. Opel will be higher-priced, more features and Chevy will be lower-priced,” he told Reuters.

The only sensible voices in this directionless drama are the Opel dealers. Says Reuters: “Opel dealers have voiced frustration with the brand’s market positioning, saying GM needs to clearly define whether or not it is a more premium brand. Some have suggested GM should orient Opel to compete with VW’s Skoda.”

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10 Comments on “Opel’s Branding Yo-yo: Down, Up, Down, Down, Up...”

  • avatar

    Opel competing with Skoda?! What are those dealers smoking? Opel should be positioned to compete with the Volkswagen brand, those two brands are more or less on the same level. Leave it to Chevrolet (“Daewoolet”) to compete with Skoda.

    • 0 avatar

      He speaks the truth!
      The dealers want to compete with Skoda because it’s easy.
      Plus, there are books and books of 1980s Skoda jokes that they can use with the punters.

      Why do (pre VW takeover) Skodas have rear heated screens?
      So you can keep your hands warm when you’re pushing them.

    • 0 avatar

      Chevy can compete with Dacia, Opel with Skoda. VW is out of their range.

  • avatar

    By keeping Opel competing with VW, GM actually have a halfway sensible branding strategy around the world. Chevrolet/Holden at the bottom (competing with Skoda, continuing the VW example), Opel/Vauxhall/Buick in the middle (competing with VW) and Cadillac at the top (competing with Audi). Of course whether buyers particularly in the UK/Europe see Opel/Vauxhall as middle ranking is another thing…

    • 0 avatar

      All it takes are desirable offerings (esp. having sharp-ooking sheetmetal).

      Moving a brand upmarket is not always as arduous as BS states.

      Both Hyundai and Kia have made great leaps in brand image within just one generation of models, even for the more discerning European market.

      Audi’s turnaround in the US luxury market (esp. at the higher end of the market) really started not that long ago with the R8 and A7 adding much need cachet to the Audi lineup.

  • avatar

    Sounds like they are trying the failed Volkswagen strategy of a few years ago. Phaeton, anyone?

    • 0 avatar

      This doesn’t mean that Opel will be developing a luxury flagship sedan (btw, the Phaeton does alright in Germany), but rather that Opel’s lineup will be more akin to VW (if not a little higher when it comes to interior and amenities) rather than being comparable to Ford.

      Which makes sense since the product lineups for Buick and Opel continue to merge with Buick supposedly even going more upmarket than it is today to really battle the FWD Lexus offerings as well as Acura.

  • avatar

    There is a tiny little problem with all this Opel brand positioning talk. The name carry no premium whatsoever. And being part of GM is nothing to brag about in Europe.

    At the moment, Opel is not in a position to compete with Skoda let alone with VW. First, they have to have a competitive car in order to be able even to fantasize about brand positioning. Bringing Chevy into the game is of no help to anyone because Chevy brand is positioned even lower and does not make Opel any more premum, far from it.

    I actually like styling of some of the current Opel cars, but I need time, years maybe, to forget the awfullness of Astras and Vectras I drove. Poor reliablity and even worse residual value. Price drop is similar to those with French limo.

  • avatar

    What? That Cadillac “new standard of the world” thing aint working? Maybe GM should have thought the sodomizing and drowning of Saab over a little harder.

  • avatar

    “We try and make sure we have as little overlap as possible.”

    LOLZ, uh huh GM. That’s what you’re known for.

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