RÜSSELSHEIM -- Hans Demant succeeded Carl-Peter Forster as managing director of General Motors' German subsidiary, Adam Opel, earlier this month. He remains GM Europe's vice president of engineering.
Demant's task is to guide the German operations of GME back to profitability. He spoke with Wolfgang Eschment, managing editor of Automotive News Europe's sister publication Automobilwoche, about the competitiveness of Opel's German plants and about new models the company is planning.
What is happening with the Trixx?
The question is: Can you do something below the Agila [small minivan]? We have looked at the costs of all possible components of the Trixx and I believe something could be done in this segment. More and more people want a really clever minicar. Of course, we also see that Smart still isn't profitable with such concepts, despite its good sales volume. We're looking into the Trixx, but there has been no business decision regarding the car.
What are your most pressing assignments and goals?
The assignment is very clear: make GM Europe and Opel competitive and profitable. We have one big advantage at Opel and that is our products. We have brought a whole range of excellent new models to market and these cars are extremely well-received.
Are you merely the German marketing arm of GM Europe?
We're playing the biggest role at General Motors in Europe. We have the central role in engineering. And we have extremely modern plants in Rüsselsheim and Eisenach, Germany. Don't worry. Our tradition-rich company will be stronger than ever within the GM group.
But decisions on Opel production in Germany are now made at GM Europe headquarters in Zurich.
The principle is that any plant should be able to build all products. With new cars, the question is: Which plant can make the best offer. If we're competitive in Germany, production will go to locations there.
Rüsselsheim is your most modern plant, but less than 60 percent of capacity is used.
The situation in Rüsselsheim is the result of the current sales slump in the middle segment in Europe. This doesn't just hit Opel. It affects the entire industry. But we'll boost capacity use [at the plant] with the Vectra GTS models, which will move from England to Rüsselsheim. This could bring us up to capacity use of more than 80 percent.
Could Saab models be built in Rüsselsheim on the basis of the Vectra's Epsilon platform?
I could imagine that. In theory, you could at some point even build Fiat models in Rüsselsheim, but that isn't planned at the moment.