Those who understand and appreciate northern European cultures would have no trouble recognizing Alain Visser as a true Belgian. Like many of his countrymen, Opel/Vauxhall’s executive director of European marketing delights in enjoying top-notch cuisine and vintage wines.
At work, his cheerful demeanor allows him to remain calm regardless of the circumstances. His positive attitude has helped him give the General Motors Europe subsidiaries the fighting spirit needed to recapture lost market share. Opel and Vauxhall sold a combined 567,653 units in Europe in the first four months. The carmakers’ market share edged up to 8 percent from 7.9 percent a year ago.
Part of Visser’s contribution to the recent upswing is the Million Mile Test Drive program, which is on track to attract 1 million participants in 40 countries to try an Opel or Vauxhall for three days. The initial goal for the program was 500,000 participants.
Name: Alain Visser.
Title: Opel/Vauxhall executive director of European marketing.
Family: Wife, Kaat; sons, Vincent, 6, and Simon, 9.
Languages: Dutch, German, English, French, Italian, Spanish.
Countries lived in: Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and the UK.
Education: MBA from Duke University, in Durham, North Carolina, USA; certification to be a translator from University of Antwerp in Belgium.
What is in your garage? Opel Signum.
What was your first job in the industry? Marketing coordinator at Ford Belgium in 1986.
What is your greatest personal achievement? Implementing the Million Mile Test Drive program, which is probably the biggest program I have ever initiated and is so far exceeding expectations.
If you were to choose an alternative career what would it be? I could not think of doing that, but if I did it would be related to my second passion, music.
What do you do to relax? Spend time with my friends and family, listen to music or enjoy a good dinner with a nice wine.
What is your favorite restaurant? Gin Fish, a new fish restaurant in Antwerp,that offers the ideal combination of great ambiance and wonderful food. You do not need a Michelin star to be a great restaurant.
What kind of books do you read? To be honest, I don’t read books, nor do I read trade magazines because I can’t relax when I read them. When I read, I prefer to read magazines related to music.
What is the first thing you do when you get home at night? Take off my tie. Then I switch off by spending time with my wife and children.
What do you do on planes? I do not like flying, so I try to overcome my fear by sleeping.
What are you good at? It may seem a bit naive, but I simply like working with a lot of people and communicating with them, that is what I am good at. One of the nice things about big companies is that there are a lot of people around.
How would you describe your character? I like to see the glass as being half full. I am an optimist.
What do you dislike about yourself? I can be impatient and I have a poor sense of direction. For me, a human navigation system would be the invention of the century.
What are your most treasured possessions? My CD collection, which is made up of mostly jazz and blues. I try to limit the collection to about 500 so I sell off some of the CDs from time to time.
Who is your real-life hero? I don’t believe in heroes, so I do not know of any specific person. But I do believe in people who are able to make heroes out of others.
What will be the next big thing in the car industry? Individualization! It will make cars look and feel different through design, equipment and specifications.