Opel CEO targets No. 2 sales position in Europe in comeback drive

Opel CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann poses inside the company's three millionth car to roll off the production line at a factory in Eisenach, Germany, on Wednesday. Photo credit: BLOOMBERG

FRANKFURT (Bloomberg) -- Adam Opel AG is targeting second place in deliveries in Europe in the coming years as new models attract buyers.

"We're working on the biggest comeback story in the European auto industry," Opel CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann said in a speech at the manufacturer's plant in Eisenach, Germany. "We've set ourselves clear goals. We want to profitably become the No. 2 in Europe."

General Motors' Opel brand currently is the third-largest brand in the region, behind VW and Ford, according to data from the ACEA trade group.

The nameplate's first-quarter market share rose to 6.8 percent from 6.7 percent.

Volkswagen AG's namesake brand's share in the period stood at 11.8 percent, while Ford Motor Co. had 7.5 percent of the market. GM, which in 2013 was passed by VW in global sales, has been reorganizing brands globally to focus on its strongest regional offerings.

GM will pull Opel from China next year after failing to gain traction in the market over the last two decades, and stop selling Chevrolet vehicles in Europe.

In December the company said its Holden unit will stop producing cars in Australia. Opel has produced 3 million cars in Eisenach since spending 1.2 billion euros to open its factory in the city in 1990. The plant produces the small Corsa and subcompact Adam.

The automaker has received more than 80,000 orders for the Adam city car since the model came to market, Neumann said today. European sales at Opel and its U.K. sister brand Vauxhall gained 8.5 percent to 226,888 cars in the first quarter, slightly better than the 8.1 percent increase for the market overall, according to ACEA data.

Europe losses

GM plans to break even in Europe by mid-decade after losing more than $18 billion in the region since 1999. Opel is closing a plant in Bochum, the first auto factory to be shuttered in Germany since World War II.

At the same time, the unit is refreshing its mid-sized Insignia car after adding the Adam city car and Mokka compact sport-utility vehicle.

GM will add a variant of the Insignia that in the coming years will also be exported to the United States under the Buick badge, as well as another Opel model that will be announced by the end of the year.

A sale of Opel to Canadian auto-parts producer Magna International Inc. and Russian partner OAO Sberbank was among options that GM considered as the U.S. company struggled to restore group profitability during the global recession in 2009. GM, which has controlled Opel since 1929, chose instead to keep the business and reorganize it to make it profitable.

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