Bob Lutz, GM vice chairman and product czar, said in Geneva this month that he was "very content with the new direction Opel has taken." But more importantly, Opel's conservative customer base is also displaying approval of the new styling direction, Opel executives say.
At a recent clinic, Opel customers accepted the GTC concept car as the Astra successor, Smith said.
"There is a new way of thinking," Smith said.
Four years ago, cautious Opel marketers rejected an expressively styled Corsa successor.
But the new Vectra, Speedster, Meriva and Signum, which goes on sale May 9, have started to move away from Opel's traditional design.
Opel executives are openly pleased that the Volkswagen group's new classic-emotional brand positioning means the Volkswagen brand will likely continue to produce conservatively styled cars. The next-generation VW Golf due in October will be launched before the new Astra goes on sale in the first quarter of 2004, but Opel believes the Astra will have a styling advantage. Smith also said a second-generation Zafira due in 2005 would be a sharp styling contrast to the VW Touran minivan launched at Geneva this month.
"Believe me, this car will be a hit," he said.
Opel's new styling direction will be fully developed in the launches of the Astra and its variations, and the next Zafira. An Astra station wagon will follow the regular Astra in 2004. In spring 2005, an Astra convertible styled by Bertone will have a foldable metal roof that converts it into a coupe when closed. The next Agila will start production in 2006. It again will be produced by GM affiliate Suzuki, but will have a more differentiated Opel version. In 2006, a crossover vehicle will take over from the full-size Omega that will be discontinued this August. Forster said a V-8 version will be available at launch. In spring 2004, Opel will introduce a small, sporty two-seater on the Corsa platform, with an electro-hydraulic metal folding roof built by French coachbuilder Heuliez. In 2005, Opel may add a bigger two-seater to replace the Speedster. The new sports car will likely be based on GM's Pontiac Solstice concept car, but Opel is concerned about costs since Saab dropped its version during the GM joint development program.
To better control its new design direction, Opel is planning to take over all bodywork tuning. Opel will establish a studio specifically for tuning designs. Irmscher, which used to do all Opel tuning, will lose its exclusive contract. Opel is looking for new aftermarket tuning companies.