GM to retain Opel – what a foul play!

What long looked like a neverending story got an unexpected turn. GM tonight decided to keep Opel.
GM who first played the poor victim of economic downturn and a US auto market that got ever tougher and who addressed governments for financial aid in order to maintain thousands of jobs now showed its real face. Among the wide range of similar brands of inferior quality, Opel can truly be called the most promising of all GM brands. For months, the German government has been working hard to support Opel and to navigate the corporation towards what seemed to be the most promising of buyers: Magna together with Sberbank. This may not have been the ideal result but at least it saved Opel and thus German engineering from Chinese copy methods. Now what? Time will tell. By keeping Opel GM maintains access to European-standard automobile technology and the production lines for small vehicles which may become one of the fastest growing automobile segments in the U.S. – given that gas prices will not fall to levels before 2006.

How can GM all of a sudden afford to keep Opel? According to GM auto sales in October have risen by 4 per cent compared to the previous year which was mostly due to the core brands Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC and Buick.

German politicians and managers alike are very displeased about the game GM has been playing for several months.

I seriously wonder if the brand Opel and the the German Chevrolet models will not be negatively affected by this strategy. There is a latent threat that the strong sympathy and support which Opel has been experiencing in the last months may turn by 180°. Opel could be perceived to be less German and more capitalistic and greedy, sokaing up German taxpayer money…

Curious about what is to come….

One day has gone since GM announced to keep Opel. As expected, German government representatives are „pissed“, European Opel employees scared about the future, and Magna angry about this sudden change of plan. Many wonder how GM plans to manage the restructuring of Opel, what will happen to the European factories and whether GM will make its statements true and lay off some 10,000 employees. Experts expect that GM will increase pressure on the current European factories and try to play them off against each other in the struggle for survival.

I am skeptical about whether GMs strategy has a long-term perspective. They are running risk of pissing off European consumers, auto unions and European governments. How then do you want to increase sales in Europe? And how will rival automakers react to this move? Ford is already ahead of competition in the U.S. and by introducing more and more European technology in the U.S. and by focusing on efficiency instead of pure power and size their head start may manifest.

Road Trip! GM Sends the Volt Out Into the World

General Motors is working out any bugs in the Chevrolet Volt and seeing how the range-extended electric vehicle fares in the real world during a three-day road trip.

Road Trip! GM Sends the Volt Out Into the World

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Ford not recognized as a German brand

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The drama about German automaker and GM subsidiary Opel is not only an advantage for rivaling automakers. Although profiting from consumer uncertainties by winning former Opel drivers, the worries and the public discourse about the future of the Opel brand also did harm Opel rivals. According to a current FAZ article, a central insight for Ford was that Opel not Ford is generally being perceived as the more German of the two brands. Thus it can be said that the Opel crisis also helped Opel to strengthen consumer loyalty and to interest patriotic Germans for their affordable vehicles. To Ford this poses a completely new marketing challenge. Still suffering from the image of producing conservative, emotionless cars, sympathy for Ford may have further decreased. But it should also be mentioned that in the US as well as in Germany, Ford’s management had taken early and wise measures to prepare for the current auto crisis. Thus a scenario similar to that of Opel would not seem credible (begging for givernmental aid,…). So Ford’s marketing challenge for the future will be to produce more emotional cars, such as the Insignia or new Astra and to improve its perceived ‚German-ness‘.
One consequence of the current auto crisis might be that that markets which formerly were a taboo are now considered attractive segments. Ford and even Fiat (together with Chrysler) are considering entering the US automobile market. The cause? Perhaps this will improve competition and contribute to the overall quality of US makes. Still today, these millions of cars American automakers are producing each year simply won’t sell anywhere but the US. Europe is simply much more advancaed and competitive. If this is the scale for US makes, then and only then, there is a chance that they will survive in the long run.

Opel goes to Magna and Sberbank

The uncertainty is over.
Although many feared that after endless meetings and discussion GM would not give away Opel but instead keep it to rebuild GM, it will finally go to Magna and its investors. Although this put an end to endless speculations, many workers at Opel now fear for their jobs. German Minister of Economics Affairs, zu Guttenberg, confirmed rumors that Magna will lay off more workers than initially expected. Latest news are speaking of up to 4,500 jobs that will be cut in Germany. Most of these will be in the area of production but also administrative job will fall away.
But Opel also has demands against former owner GM. Until recently GM decided in which countires Opel models are to be sold. It took long until Opel models could be sold in the US under its American brand Saturn. But still today, many Europeans are wondering why many of those attractive and efficient German Opel models never made their way into the American market. The reason seems obvious: cannibalisation. Why buy a Chevrolet when you can have the technologically superior European Opel models? Let’s hope Opel under Magna will have the possibility to enter more international markets that bear opportunities.

Opel to change its claim – once again…

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Amidst all the confusion about the future of Opel, the marketing experts of Interbrand have been asked to develop a new claim for the shaken automaker Opel. According to today’s article on, the new claim was inspired by the shirts Opel workers used to wear while protesting for a soon and satisfying concept for Opel. „We live cars“ may see its official debut at the IAA in Frankfurt which will open its gates on September, 17. The new claim is expected to be accompanied by a remake of the Opel Blitz brand mark.

I argue that claims should show the same consistency as the brand as a whole. Too many quick and not well thought of changes weaken a brand’s perception in the eyes of the consumer. In the ideal long-run marketing strategy all is in line: The logo, the claim and the values a product represents. BMW for example has only slightly changed its logo over the years, and for centuries, driving pleasure has remained the central element of any BMW communication. The same consistency can be found in their cars: Whether a 635 CSI, a 2002, or the latest X1, sportiness and pleasure are still central facets of the BMW brand.

To me personally, Opel represents German automobile history. Not in the negative sense. There is still a lot of sympathy for this brand. And in recent times, this has been paired with fair value and decent quality. With the Opel Insignia and the new Astra, asthetic design also returned, and paved the way for a new generation of Opels. Given, there will we one.

As it looks now, GM has discovered that within its corporation Opel is a diamond in the rough that might also lay the foundation for a GM future. But I am convinced many people at Opel are tired of the ignorant and self-aggrandizing GM managers…

The dream: Let Opel take over GM and clean up this American mess of a carmaker.

Link to the cited ftd article: