DETROIT (Bloomberg) -- General Motors Co.'s European Opel/Vauxhall unit is introducing models with advanced options typically sold on luxury cars, seeking to revive a business that's lost $14.5 billion since 1999.
The GM unit is working with management consultants AlixPartners on how to tweak options packages or production plans to spur higher prices, two people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News.
They are also studying ways to reduce engineering and manufacturing costs, said the people, who asked not to be identified disclosing private plans. Some new features include headlights tuned to high-speed driving on the autobahn.
Opel CEO Karl Friedrich Stracke, who has predicts an operating profit for the year, has been unable to raise prices to compensate for high German labor rates because its models lack rivals' cachet.
The Opel Astra fetches 15 percent less than a comparably equipped Volkswagen Golf.
'Chrysler of Europe'
"They can't price their cars like Audi or BMW," said Thomas Stallkamp, principal of Collaborative Management, a U.S. consulting firm. Stallkamp, a former Chrysler Corp. president, was a partner at private-equity firm Ripplewood Holdings Inc. when it tried to buy Opel in 2009. "They're like the Chrysler of Europe."
The high cost of making Opels and their low prices, especially in Germany, make the company unattractive for sale, Stallkamp said.
GM has declined to comment on reports about the unit being available for sale, saying they are based on speculation. While GM executives have discussed a sale, the talks didn't advance to a serious stage, said three people involved in the matter.
GM hasn't started a sale process or enlisted its usual banking advisers -- JPMorgan Chase & Co., Morgan Stanley, Evercore Partners Inc. or Germany's Commerzbank AG -- about selling Opel, the people said.