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News Opel expanding performance lineup, hopes added models will boost brand image JASON STEIN | Automotive News Posted Date: 11/24/05 PALERMO, Italy -- To boost the image of its lineup, General Motors is expanding its range of Opel Performance Center vehicles. GM will extend its OPC high-performance package to include nearly all of its Opel models within the next two years. "On the product front, we want people to take Opel seriously as a dynamic brand, and we think we can convey that in more of our products," said Mark Adams, General Motors Europe's director of exterior design, during the press introduction of the Astra, Zafira and Vectra OPC vehicles. Opel executives say the expansion of the OPC lineup will provide the image boost the brand needs. By creating halo vehicles for each model, Opel hopes to inject excitement into its cars while further distancing itself from quality problems that plagued the brand during the 1990s. Wanted: Halo cars Currently Opel offers OPC versions of its Astra lower-medium car and Zafira medium minivan. The third-generation Astra OPC and second-generation Zafira OPC models go on sale this month. OPC variants of the upper-medium Vectra five-door hatchback and Vectra Caravan station wagon also will expand the lineup this month. Opel executives say GM will introduce an OPC version of its Meriva small minivan this year and Corsa small-segment car in 2007. GM also is considering an OPC version of the GT roadster and Antara GTC medium SUV. The GT roadster will be imported into Europe from the United States. Production is scheduled to begin next year in GM's Wilmington, Del., assembly plant. The Antara GTC will be built by GM Daewoo in Korea with production starting in the fourth quarter of 2006. When the Astra OPC was launched in 1999, the intention was to boost the image of the brand in the same way AMG provided a performance character for Mercedes-Benz. GM's goals haven't changed. "We want halo vehicles for the Opel brand," Adams said. Signum excluded Opel does not intend to offer the upper-medium Signum in an OPC package, he said. The Astra OPC and Zafira OPC come with a 240-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged engine. The Vectra and Vectra Caravan OPC have a 255-hp, 2.8-liter V-6 turbocharged engine. GM hopes to produce 2,200 units per year of the Zafira, 2,600 Vectras and 3,500 Astras. The volume will be split among Germany, the United Kingdom and Switzerland. GM produced only 3,000 of the 1999 Astra OPC and 3,500 of its second-generation Astra OPC. A surprise hit was the first-generation Zafira OPC of which GM produced 12,000 units. The base Astra OPC is priced at 28,000 euros (about $32,700 at current exchange rates), while the Zafira's pricing starts at $37,892. The Vectra OPC is priced at $44,150 for the sedan and $45,080 for the wagon. Vauxhall, Opel's sister brand in the United Kingdom, uses the VXR label for OPC models

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