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Opel to build small SUV

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James Franey

Automotive News Europe

October 8, 2007 -- 06:01 CET

Opel's marketing team is developing a plan to enter the small-SUV market, with Chevrolet likely to follow shortly after, a union official in Belgium says.

The Opel model would compete with vehicles such as the Fiat Sedici and Suzuki SX4.

Opel Managing Director Hans Demant said a market exists for such a vehicle, but he would not comment on whether it will be built.

“There is a need for small SUVs, and our marketing team has been working on this,” Demant told Automotive News Europe. “First we need to develop a concept.”

Rudi Kennes, an official at Belgium's ABVV union, says the new SUV would be built in General Motors' Antwerp, Belgium, factory. He says GM has signed an agreement that says a small SUV for two GM brands will go into production in the second half of 2010.

“One will be an Opel and the other a Chevrolet,” Kennes says, adding that the plant would produce 120,000 units of the new model a year.

Nigel Griffiths, a senior analyst at Global Insight in London, says he expects Chevrolet's small SUV to be close to the Trax concept that debuted in April at the New York auto show.

The small SUV could be based on GM's new small-car architecture, which is being developed by GM Daewoo Auto & Technology Co. in Korea.

GM's Antwerp plant will have extra capacity after GM phases out production of the current Opel/Vauxhall Astra there by 2010.

Alain Visser, Opel's executive director for European marketing, says that GM was looking to fill capacity at its Antwerp plant and that a small SUV “was one of the options.”

The small-SUV segment is growing sharply in Europe. Last year, sales rose 62.6 percent to 94,153 units.

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Nah, not when the Brazilian, Fiesta-based EcoSport is around.

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So the Captiva wasn't small enough.

The Captiva is lower-midsize. The new crossovers will be true compacts like the Qashqai, Tucson and Sportage, maybe a little bigger or smaller depending on who you ask, and whether they are more hatchback or wagon. The potential is for anything between the Aveo and Vue in size, with only 4-cylinder engines.

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