General Motors CEO Dan Akerson says GM is building towards a major strategic realignment of its marques in Europe, with a focus on Chevrolet and Opel.
Akerson told Automotive News the “confusing” overlap between Chevrolet and Opel in Europe is a particular source of frustration, with their similar market positioning reminiscent of “retro GM”, referring to a time when the automotive giant saturated the market with many similar brands and models.
“It is of concern to me,” Akerson said. “Something has to change. I just think there’s channel conflict and confusion.”
GM has tried to reposition Opel (and Vauxhall in the UK) as an entry-level premium car maker in Europe, similar to Buick’s positioning in the US, and Chevrolet as a mainstream marque. Despite these efforts, both brands continue to be perceived as equivalent, selling a similar model range with only a small number of shared vehicles, to the detriment of operations efficiency and potential overall profit.
Akerson says the brand conflict in Europe will be solved, “one way or another”, a statement some have taken to mean one of the two brands may be sold.
In 2009, GM tried to sell Opel as part of its bankruptcy recovery, however it later back-flipped on the decision, citing a restructuring of its brand catalogue as a solution to its financial difficulties. In September this year, it was actually Opel that performed better, selling 630,453 units, down four per cent but in line with the overall European car market’s decline. By comparison, Chevrolet, whose sales were rising in Europe in 2009, slid 19 per cent, selling 112,452 units.
Despite Akerson’s frustration with Chevrolet and Opel in Europe, Chevrolet Europe boss Thomas Sedran recently said there is “very little interaction between” the two brands.