GM Europe aims for above-average growth

Zurich. General Motors wants to achieve above average growth in Europe compared with current market levels.

"During the course of the year, we will increase our sales in western and central Europe by around 200,000 units to 2 million units overall," said Jonathan Browning, GM Europe vice president of sales, marketing and aftersales in and interview with Automobilwoche.

Opel/Vauxhall is expected to lead the way, adding around 100,000 units to a total of 1.5 million units. The target for Saab is a 15,000-unit increase to 88,000 units. GM Daewoo sales are expected to rise from 133,000 units to 180,000 vehicles.

In the field of light commercial vehicles, Browning expects a 30,000-unit increase to 180,000 units. For the entire European auto market, he predicts growth of between "1 percent and 1.5 percent."

GM continues to integrate its European brands. "In the past 12 months, we have been able to cut about 200 jobs throughout Europe by making use of synergies in the back office between national Opel/Vauxhall and Saab distribution companies," Browning said.

He said the cuts have been company-related "only in the rarest of cases."

"We were able to move most of these jobs to other departments," he said. He added that most of the remaining cuts were done through early retirement.

The relocation of Saab's German headquarters from Bad Homburg to Opel's base in RŸsselsheim will be completed by the end of March. The 66-person staff has been trimmed to 61 workers so far. Three positions were eliminated and two employees chose early retirement.

Twenty-one of the remaining Saab employees work exclusively for the Swedish brand in marketing and distribution. All other employees, including those working in fleet sales and sales network development, work for multiple brands.

Unlike Saab and Opel/Vauxhall, South Korean manufacturer GM Daewoo, of which GM holds 44.6 percent, won't be part of GM's brand integration program.

"Daewoo is currently growing at an incredible pace and should concentrate on that," Browning said.

The priority at GM Daewoo is to expand its dealer network. The aim is to increase the brand's number of distribution partners in western Europe this year to 1,250 from about 1,000. In Germany, the brand has 265 dealers and 68 service partners. Those numbers should be 350 and 100, respectively, by the end of 2004.

Browning said GM is prepared for EU enlargement: "In Poland and Hungary we are very well-positioned. We have to take larger steps in the Baltic states to bring our dealers' standards up to the same level. The planned transition period of six months will allow us enough time for this."

GM is also planning a further expansion of its eastern European distribution network.

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