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Exclusive: Opel announces Aussie launch network

Opel landing: GM's German arm, Opel will launch in Australia later this year with 17 dealers in metropolitan areas across the country.

Only two Holden dealers to get Opel franchises as prestige car retailers step up

26 Jun 2012

OPEL will kick off its retail assault in Australia in September with a 17-dealer chain of metropolitan standalone sites.

Only two of the debut dealers for General Motors’ European brand – Brisbane’s AP Eagers and Sydney’s Alto Group – have Holden outlets.

As well, only one of those dealers handled the ill-fated GM Premium Brands franchises Saab and Hummer, which bit the dust in the global financial crisis, leaving many Holden dealers ruing their involvement.

Instead, at least half of the initial 17 dealers handle German prestige brands such as Mercedes-Benz, BMW or Audi.

Quality Japanese brands such as Honda and Subaru are also well represented among the multi-franchised dealerships that have committed to either new or extensively renovated showrooms for GM’s German brand that will open with three main models – the Corsa light hatchback, Astra small car – including the high-performance Astra GTC – and Insignia mid-sized sedan.

So far, the network extends to capital cities in all six states and the Australian Capital Territory, as well as Geelong in Victoria.

The company today embarks on a search for six more dealerships in major provincial centres to expand the footprint in 2013, mainly in Queensland and New South Wales in larger cities such as Townsville, Cairns, Toowoomba and Wollongong.

 center imageLeft: Opel Australia managing director Bill Mott.

Smaller rural centres will follow, but not until later, probably 2014.

Opel Australia managing director Bill Mott told GoAuto that his company had received 200 expressions of interest from dealers across Australia.

“Our objective going in was to have between 15 and 20 dealers nationally, and one of the objectives was also to have dealers in every state and every capital, to truly have national representation,” he said.

“We were looking for very strong partners who were willing to invest and who shared our vision of the potential of this brand within Australia.”

Mr Mott, who is working with a staff of 15 out of Holden’s Melbourne head office, said the vast majority of the dealers who replied to its advertisement in GoAutoNews had gone the extra step to enter into discussions with Opel.

“We ended up with a process of reviewing and evaluating the list and were left with 17 dealers that we will launch with,” he said.

“That gives me the objective of having at least one in each state capital, so we will have true national representation.”

Mr Mott, who was Opel’s group marketing manager for mini and small cars at its headquarters in Russelsheim until his appointment as founding chief of Opel Australia last year, said the applicants had included a “considerable amount” of Holden dealers, but that the criteria for selection was based simply on the proposal from each dealer.

“We were very open with all potential partners when we said what counts for us and what is really relevant is the strength of your proposal to us,” he said.

“(We told them) the brands that you currently represent are frankly secondary – we are going to measure each one on their own merit.

“I think it is a testament to the strength of the proposals we got that we have ended up with these 17 very, very strong dealers.”

Mr Mott said a key criterion was that each dealership provides a standalone showroom with “a unique door and a unique Opel experience, with no shared facilities with a separator down the middle of the showroom”.

Some dealers were building dealerships from the ground up, while others were overhauling existing facilities.

Although showrooms had to be uniquely Opel, service and parts facilities could be shared.

Mr Mott said it was hard to say if the GM Premium Brands issue had affected the attitude of Holden dealers to applying for an Opel franchise.

“We certainly had interest from Holden dealers, but our objective was to choose the very best partner and that is what we have done,” he said.

Asked if customers would be wary of Opel after reports from Europe that it was financially unsound, Mr Mott said: “GM is absolutely committed to making Opel a profitable brand.

“Part of that is growing the brand’s footprint outside of Europe which is contracting very rapidly and where Opel has 99 per cent of its volume.

“Hence, Australia is an important part of that, and we are confident, as is Opel, that this will work.”

Mr Mott said Opel was “investigating every opportunity there is”, including China.

He said recent markets to receive Opel were Chile and Israel, with Australia next in September.

Mr Mott said his operation reported directly to Opel head office in Germany, not to Holden, but would share some Holden resources such as parts warehousing and vehicle logistics.

“We will be smart in the way we go about it so that everything is to the benefit of General Motors in Australia,” he said, adding that using services such as Holden’s existing vehicle import operation would give Opel massive economies of scale.

Opel’s dealer network:Queensland
Opel Brisbane – Fortitude Valley
Motorline Opel – Daisy Hill
Gold Coast Opel – AshmoreNew South Wales
Sydney City Auto – Rockdale
Alto Opel – Artarmon
Tynan Opel – Kirrawee
Opel of Parramatta – ParramattaACT
Rolfe Opel – PhillipSouth Australia
Adelaide Opel - AdelaideVictoria
South Yarra Opel – Prahran
Rex Gorell Opel – Geelong
Eastside Opel – Nunawading
Metro Opel – Moonee Ponds
Berwick Opel – BerwickWestern Australia
Burswood Opel – Burswood
Barbagallo Opel – Osborne ParkTasmania
Performance Opel – Hobart

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