Mike Colias covers General Motors for Automotive News.
Mary Barra will make her first public appearance at a European auto show as GM’s CEO next week in Frankfurt.
Her timing is pretty good.
GM’s Opel division had little to feel good about the last time the automotive world descended on its home country for the sprawling Frankfurt motor show, in September 2013. Opel had lost market share for 14 straight years. GM Europe was piling up losses that ended up totaling $844 million that year.
Opel execs couldn’t even get their story straight on whether selling Chevrolets in Europe was a good idea or bad. (They ultimately decided bad.)
Fast-forward two years, and there’s likely to be some buzz around the Opel stand, even before Barra lifts the wraps from the redesigned Astra compact car on Tuesday.
GM has shored up its European losses and says it remains on pace to turn a profit in 2016. Opel gained market share in 2014; sales were up 5.2 percent through July (though that lags the industry’s 8.6 percent gain).
Its leadership is stabilized under ebullient Opel chief Karl-Thomas Neumann, who brought in marketing dynamo Tina Mueller from the cosmetics world to revitalize Opel’s faded image.
Opel is far from out of the woods -- simply stopping the flow of red ink can’t be the goal going forward. But for the first time in a long time, the focus in Frankfurt will be product, not plant closures and “Opel’s for sale” rumors.