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Opel mines Oz

Euro invasion: Opel's Corsa is set to lead the brand's charge into Australia, along with the Astra and Insignia.

GM German offshoot Opel heads Down Under from 2012 in three-pronged attack on VW

Opel logo12 Jan 2011

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS in DETROIT

AUSTRALIA has been confirmed as the latest addition to a rejuvenated Opel’s global expansion plans.

Three core models will arrive initially from 2012, with the Corsa light car, Astra small car and Insignia medium car providing the backbone of the brand’s presence in Australia.

As expected, the German arm of General Motors will have its own separate showroom space, even though GM Holden Ltd will undertake all the distribution, spare parts and myriad backroom duties.

Pricing has yet to be announced, but Opel says it will closely shadow the similarly equipped Volkswagen equivalents ($16,000-plus Polo, $25,000-plus Golf and $40,000-plus Passat) as GM challenges the high-flying Wolfsburg brand for a piece of the premium market in Australia.

GM Europe vice-president Nick Reilly said at the announcement at this week’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit that somewhere between 5000 and 12,000 units would be ideal in the first three to five years of operation in Australia.

He also emphasised that Opel is not expecting to achieve Volkswagen’s current sales numbers, which topped 38,000 vehicles for the first time last year.

Mr Reilly revealed the decision to introduce Opel into Australia is part of a concerted effort to boost the brand’s reach beyond Europe to the tune of more than 100,000 units annually. Other fresh destinations include China, Chile and Israel.

“It’s important for Opel and it is important as a brand statement,” said Mr Reilly.

“This is not just an Australian play it’s an outside of Europe play. We feel that Opel has the capability of selling, eventually, a significant number of vehicles outside of Europe.”

 center imageFrom top: Opel Astra, Opel Insignia.

According to GM, Opel will add incremental sales in Australia with virtually no cannibalisation of Holden sales.

Research in Europe indicates that Opel and GM’s lower-cost value brand Chevrolet hardly overlap as far as sales are concerned, with cross-shopping being “almost non-existent”.

“We now have the specification to compete with Volkswagen (for quality, driveability and safety) and not just on price,” said Mr Reilly.

“And we are determined to make money in Australia. As Holdens, Opel was never able to do that.

“We don’t see Holden as a competitor at all.”

Once the Corsa, Astra and Insignia arrive, Opel will probably consider adding the third-generation Zafira seven-seater people mover, which is due to appear late this year, as well as the innovative second-generation Meriva mini people-mover.

But the Astra is expected to be the best seller by some margin given its intermittent 26-year career in Australia and 13-year continuous streak as Holden’s small-car mainstay from 1996 until early 2010.

“Australian drivers have a strong affinity with Opel vehicles like Astra which were previously sold under the Holden brand,” said Holden chairman Mike Devereux.

“Opel presents a new opportunity for GM in Australia with a growing demand for German design and technology at affordable prices.

“We look forward to supporting our sister brand establish itself as a strong competitor in the growing premium European segment.”

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