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EDWARD LAPHAM COMMENTARY 8/23/05: Can a U.S.-built car be the next great Euro roadster?

By Edward Lapham
Automotive News / August 23, 2005

General Motors execs expect big results from the low-volume Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky roadsters, which will be image-building halo vehicles for their brands.

Initial Solstice sales make it popular, but production is being ramped up slowly, so Pontiac dealers are clamoring for more cars. Some Pontiac dealers are grumbling that GM shouldn't give Saturn dealers a version, even though it goes into production this year.

What's less certain is how Europeans will accept the Opel roadster that is expected for 2007. The Opel model will be built on the same rear-wheel-drive architecture as the Solstice and Sky, and at the same GM factory in Wilmington, Del.

The Wilmington Opel will replace the Opel Speedster, which is built by Lotus in England. The Speedster is a true mid-engine European sports car, but it hasn't sold well. Opel sold only 220 units in the first six months of the year, before production ceased in July, according to Automotive News Europe. The Vauxhall version sold in England also was a sales dud.

It's hard to imagine that an Opel roadster built in Delaware couldn't easily top those numbers. One European marketing analyst told Automotive News Europe that Opel might be able to sell as many as 8,500 a year.

The issue is not where the vehicle is built. After all, BMW roadsters built in South Carolina are sold all over the world, even in Europe.

The trick will be to produce a car that appeals to European tastes and meets European standards. If that happens, the United States could become a significant source of rear-drive Euro roadsters.

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Interesting, these nitch cars are so unpredictable for sales, this Kappa could still be a flop in a few years after the thrill is gone, who knows. Whats up with the Opel ? Doesnt look good ? doestn perform good ? just not enough captive audience ? I agree saturin should not get a ANYTHING they are interfering and are going to kill Buick and Pontiac - the hands that fed them.

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What the hell does it matter where its built as long as it has some appeal to the European market? You can't tell me there is latent 'Euro pride' in cars across the pond - Rolls-Royce is owned by the Germans and a bunch of midrange cars are made in Hungary and the Czech Republic for crying out loud.

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Well, the Opel version should be identical to the Saturn version, so, technically, I want the Opel!!!

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