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Strong lineup cushions Opel against German decline

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Strong lineup cushions Opel against German decline

Luca Ciferri

Automotive News Europe -- July 7, 2010 07:00 CET

Despite a 41 percent unit-sales decline in Germany, Opel/Vauxhall’s overall European volume has remained in positive territory due to strong demand for the new Astra and Insignia plus the launch of the new Meriva small minivan.

“We could have lost some opportunities in the past, but not recently,” Jaap Timmer, president of Euroda, Opel's European dealership association, told Automotive News Europe.

He said Opel and Vauxhall are still benefiting from the Insignia being named 2009 European Car of the Year and he added that the new Astra is exceeding expectations.

In June, Opel said is had received 160,000 orders for the Astra five-door hatchback within six months, which left the car just 20,000 orders shy of its full-year target. The automaker also said that it had 30,000 orders within a few weeks for the Meriva, which started to arrive in European showrooms last month.

Opel will add to its new Astra range by launching a station wagon variant in Europe in November. The company said the station wagon version traditionally accounts for about 25 percent of all Astra sales in Europe. On average, the station wagon variant of a compact model accounts for 17 percent of the total model line's sales in Europe. That means Opel could see an above-average boost in sales from the arrival of the Astra wagon.

Long-awaited minicar

Altogether, Opel plans to launch of seven new products this year and another five next year. Timmer says the 2011 debuts could include a long-awaited minicar.

That model, which has been dubbed the Opel City, will be a three-door rival to the Citroen C1, Fiat 500, Ford Ka, Peugeot 107 and Toyota Aygo.

Opel currently does not have a model in the minicar segment, which grew 32 percent last year to 1,649,074 units, according to market researcher JATO Dynamics.

At the Automotive News Europe Congress late last month, Opel/Vauxhall CEO Nick Reilly said that 80 percent of the automaker's model lines will be 3 years old or less by 2012.

While the lineup will get younger, one analyst said that Opel's bigger problem is maintaining interest in it cars throughout their life cycles.

“New models, such as the Insignia and the Astra, usually sell well in their first two years on the market, then their sales spirally down. Just look at the Corsa,” said a Frankfurt-based financial consultant who is prevented from speaking on the record by company policy.

Launched in summer 2006, the Corsa subcompact is Opel/Vauxhall's best-selling model in Europe. The Corsa finished 2009 as Europe's No. 2 selling subcompact model behind the Ford Fiesta, but after four months of 2010 it has slipped to No. 5 due to a 3.1 percent sales decline to 112,395 units. The Fiesta led the segment after four months thanks to a 8.49 percent increase in sales to 173,141 units.


Opel/Vauxhall's top-selling models in Europe after 4 month; % chg from 2009

1. Corsa 112,395 -3.1

2. Astra 105,553 +29.1

3. Insignia 43,046 +2.6

4. Zafira 29,008 -11.9

5. Meriva 28,126 +6.4

Source: JATO Dynamics

Read more: http://www.autonews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100707/ANE/100709934/1193#ixzz0szxjglVg

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