DETROIT -- General Motors' European Opel unit is in "the best shape it's been in a very long time" and gained market share for the first time in 14 years in 2013, GM President Dan Ammann said today.
Ammann told an audience at the Automotive News World Congress that the European car market has "found the bottom" and that Opel is benefiting from a refreshed product lineup.
Ammann cautioned, though, that there aren't strong signs of a recovery.
"It's still a very very fragile economic environment over there," he said. "Far too soon to declare victory."
Ammann comments came on his first day as GM president. For the past nearly three years he has served as GM's CFO. GM today named Chuck Stevens as Ammann's successor as CFO.
JATO Dynamics, which tracks European sales, said Opel's market share through the first 11 months of 2013 was 6.7 percent, flat from a year earlier, with sales of 760,345 units.
In the United States, Ammann said that competition has grown fiercer and that "the bar has been raised" in terms of product features and quality. Earlier today, Stevens said that GM expects even stronger pricing in 2014, after record-setting average transaction prices last year, although some of GM's older models will be vulnerable to stiffening price competition.
Ammann said GM's focus is on building the cachet of its brands - Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac -- and boosting residual values, rather than focusing too much on market share, as the pre-bankruptcy GM often did.
He cited big jumps in the average transaction prices of two redesigned vehicles launched last year: the Chevrolet Impala, which saw a $7,400-per-car increase in transaction prices last year; and GM's full-sized pickups, the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra, up $6,000.
"Is it getting more competitive? The answer is absolutely yes," Ammann said. "We're going to have to keep doing more of what we've been doing to stay ahead of the pack."