DAVE GUILFORD

GM's Opel gets serious about minicars while the rain falls

Automotive News | September 26, 2012 - 2:46 pm EST

Dave Guilford is enterprise editor of Automotive News.
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PARIS -- Apparently the folks at Opel are accustomed to working through difficulties and distractions.

Opel showed its Adam minicar on the eve of the Paris auto show, assembling journalists in the covered outdoor dining area of a restaurant next to the Centre Pompidou, with cars in the adjoining square. The presentation was punctuated by heavy rain. Bicyclists passed between the speakers and their audience. But the Opel team soldiered on.

Consider it a metaphor for the financial difficulties and uncertainties facing General Motors' German subsidiary.

Amid those problems, Opel has created a competitive entry into the minicar segment -- an important niche in Europe, not so big in the United States, which is probably why the Adam won't cross the Atlantic.

Malcolm Ward, Opel's head of exterior design, said the car is proudly modern, rather than retro. The Adam will have 30,000 possible exterior configurations -- maximum personalization. The interior features a seven-inch touch screen for infotainment that hooks into a driver's smartphone. And one available headliner has 63 embedded LED lights for a "starlight effect."

Overall, it's responding to what I think of as the "Hyundai effect" -- the continual upgrading of small cars from the Spartan econoboxes of the past, as drivers downsize but still want amenities.

With the Adam, and the Sonic and Spark in the U.S., GM is showing it can pack a tiny car with tasty features.

GM's Opel has created a competitive entry into the minicar segment -- an important niche in Europe, not so big in the United States.

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