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Opel Oz guns for topless halo car

Sporty Euro: An artist's impression of what the Opel convertible could look like, next to the Mokka light SUV.

Australia’s new Opel arm has its eyes on promised convertible as a showroom hero

26 Jun 2012

OPEL’S mysterious “completely new convertible” is on the wish list of the fledgling Australian arm of General Motors’ European brand that is set to nail up its shingle in Australia via a 17-dealer retail network in September.

As well, the new Corsa-based Mokka compact SUV – an upmarket twin of the Trax destined for Holden showrooms – is also expected to eventually join the starting line-up that has been confirmed as the Corsa light hatchback, facelifted Astra small car, scorching three-door Astra GTC and flagship Insignia mid-sizer.

The cars will go on sale through an initial network of standalone dealerships in all state capitals and Canberra, with more outlets to come in regional cities next year.

Secrecy surrounds the sports convertible that is likely to provide a glamorous halo for the Opel brand across the world, including Australia, where the German-based company is set to take on fellow European brands such as Volkswagen, Peugeot, Citroen and Renault.

European reports suggest the cabrio will sit on a combination of Astra and Insignia underpinnings, and will be revealed at the Paris motor show in September – around the same time that Opel fires up its Australian sales operation.

Last year, Opel’s then vice-president of corporate and product planning, Frank Weber, told Australian journalists that the convertible would not be a simple chop-top, but a cabriolet with its own style.

52 center imageFrom top: Opel Mokka Astra GTC Zafira Tourer Adam.

He also indicated the car would be bigger than the Astra, saying: “If you do four seats, and you are spending that money for open air, I think the car should be positioned between Astra and mid-sized (models). It is not just an Astra or Insignia convertible.” In his recently outlined growth strategy for the still-brittle German-based company, Opel CEO Karl-Friedrich Stracke described the sportscar as a “completely new convertible”.

Speaking with GoAuto ahead of the Australian dealer network announcement, Opel Australia founding managing director Bill Mott called the car “an interesting vehicle”, but said Opel was not ready to disclose further details.

Mr Mott indicated that Opel Australia was interested in adding the car to its line-up.

“If it comes to fruition, we would look at raising our hand for it,” he said.

The car is likely to be a spiritual successor for the Opel GT, which debuted in 1968 as a two-door sports coupe based on the Opel Kadett small car.

The last Opel GT was the short-lived 2007 model based on the Saturn Sky and built alongside it in the United States.

That car was killed off at the height of the global financial crisis, along with the Saturn brand and the factory that made it.

The new vehicle will be a European affair, perhaps with a spin-off for American and Chinese customers as a Buick.

Mr Mott said his team was working on a business plan for the Mokka compact SUV which was unveiled at the Geneva motor show in March and is just now rolling into European showrooms.

“We would love to have it,” he said. “We do not have it confirmed, but obviously it is a booming segment in Australia.

“We think it is an excellent-looking product, an excellently designed product, and we are working to secure it, but we can’t confirm it.” Left-hand-drive Mokka test vehicles have been seen at Holden’s Lang Lang proving ground, possibly as part of Holden Engineering’s role in calibrating the chassis for the related Chevrolet/Holden Trax or to tune the Opel version’s suspension for Australian conditions.

The Mokka – based on the same GM Gamma II platform as the Barina and Corsa – is being launched in Europe with three four-cylinder engines – the 1.4-litre turbo-petrol engine that also sits under the bonnet of the Holden Cruze, a 1.6-litre normally aspirated petrol, and a 1.7-litre turbo-diesel.

The vehicle is being produced in South Korea and shipped around the world, including North America where it is to be known as the Buick Encore.

Mr Mott confirmed that the Spanish-built Meriva small MPV, with its rear-hinged back doors, was unlikely to make the boat to Australia – much to his regret.

“Frankly, we have looked it and at present we don’t plan to bring it,” he said. “That’s causing some personal anguish because I think it is a great representation of the things coming of Opel.” However, the bigger Zafira is more likely to make the cut and head Down Under for another attempt at the compact people-mover segment.

“Zafira, now in its third generation, is an excellent product – better suited to Australia (than Meriva) – and we are looking at that closely,” he said.

Mr Mott said the jury was still out on the forthcoming mini-car, called Adam, for this market.

“We have not made a decision either way,” he said. “It would be difficult – it relies very much on personalisation, and with the transit time (from Europe) it is difficult to make that equation work, so we will have to have more discussion with our dealers on that potential as we get closer.” The three-door Adam will be unveiled in production form at the 2012 Paris motor show in September.

Believed to be named after company founder Adam Opel and built on a scaled-down version of the Gamma II platform of the Corsa, the little runabout will employ new petrol and diesel engine families – probably in three-cylinder format – to be rolled out by Opel in the next 18 months.

Opel Australia is yet to confirm high-performance flagship OPC (Opel Performance Centre) models for this market, but is studying the prospect of placing an OPC variant at the top of its core passenger-car lines – Corsa, Astra and Insignia.

Ripe for the picking is the new Astra OPC, which is poised to hit the European market with a 209kW/400Nm 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that can send it from 0-100km/h in just six seconds.

The Insignia OPC with the Australian-made, Holden-sourced 239kW/435Nm turbocharged 2.8-litre V6 is also likely to take a bow in the new Opel showroom network that will open its collective doors in the six state capitals plus Geelong and Canberra in September.

The range-extender petrol-electric Ampera – the Opel version of the Chevrolet/Holden Volt – is also a chance, although not until the second generation that is still some years away.

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