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NINETY EIGHT REGENCY

Opel minicar is 'top priority,' CEO says

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Opel minicar is 'top priority,' CEO says

PAUL MCVEIGH

AUTOMOTIVE NEWS EUROPE

DECEMBER 6, 2009 14:15 CET

MUNICH -- A new minicar for Opel/Vauxhall is a "top priority," Nick Reilly, the carmaker's CEO said. Reilly also said the brand will consider launching an electric vehicle.

Currently, Opel has no entry in Europe's fast-growing minicar segment to compete with cars such as the Ford Ka or Volkswagen's forthcoming Up.

Reilly said there has been a structural change in customers' habits with more people downsizing to smaller cars.

“In my view Opel needs a mini in today's market, that will be our top priority,” Reilly said on Saturday in a conference call with reporters.

Reilly said Opel will look at introducing battery-powered electric cars in addition to the Opel Ampera plug-in hybrid, which will have a range-extending combustion engine.

He said the Ampera, a sister model of the Chevreolt Volt, will initially be imported to Europe from the U.S. when it goes on sale in 2011, but eventually the Ampera will be built in Europe.

He said Vauxhall's factory in Ellesmere Port, England, which builds the Astra, is a candidate for Ampera production “but there are others."

In 2004, Opel unveiled the Trixx minicar concept at the Geneva auto show but the 3+1 seater never went into production because GM decided the Chevrolet Spark/Matiz would be its only entry in the segment.

Magna International Inc., which GM spurned as a bidder for Opel, had planned to give the brand a minicar in 2012, possibly with an electric-powered variant.

Opel's smallest vehicle currently is the Agila small minivan, which is built by Suzuki in Hungary with its platform sibling, the Suzuki Splash.

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