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Opel shock: Astra back to Oz

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Opel shock: Astra back to Oz

Bruce Newton

October 1, 2010

GM's German brand plans an Aussie invasion - including a return of the Astra small car. Bruce Newton reports.

Holden is set to face an enemy within after General Motors' European arm, Opel, said it was planning to bring a full range of its models to the Australian market.

The production version of Opel's stunning GTC Paris concept car is expected to be one of the vehicles that forms part of an Australian Opel line-up if the German auto giant successfully completes plans to enter the local market.

The GTC previews the Astra coupe, which will go on-sale in Europe late 2011, and could be in a showroom near you in 2012.

Opel chairman Nick Reilly said the plan was for a full line-up of Opel models from the mini-Meriva people-mover to the Ampera plug-in hybrid to be offered to the Australian public.

There has been speculation Opel would enter the Australian market since GM decided to hold on to the brand rather than sell it off as part of its bankruptcy plans. Reilly said he hoped to have a deal finalised and announced this year with sales commencing toward the end of 2011.

"I am optimistic we will re-enter the Australian market," Reilly told Drive. "We are putting some fine details to it, we want to do it right because we want to be there for the long term.

"We have to finalise distribution and the model range, but the intention is the complete product portfolio."

Various Opel models have been previously sold as Holdens in Australia, but they have been gradually replaced by GM-Daewoo product from Korea. While cheaper to source, the Korean cars also brought with them a significant technical and quality drop.

Reilly, however, denied that coming to Australia would tempt away disillusioned Holden small car buyers. He nominated Volkswagen as Opel's logical, key rival, in terms of premium image and pricing.

He said the Astra - once a big seller for Holden - would be Opel's most popular model here.

"Opel is well known in Australia, it's a German brand, it's got German heritage with German engineering, people value that and we have got some great looking cars. We are not there to compete with Holden, we are there to compete with other imports."

Reilly would not be drawn on the details of Opel's Australian distribution plan and how closely it would be related to Holden.

"It is a completely different brand and it would be a separate business," is all he would say.

Reilly is driving Opel's international expansion as it strives to regain profitability in the post-bankruptcy GM world. It has also recently announced export deals to Israel and Chile.

The GTC is a very accurate depiction of the Astra coupe (actually a three-door hatch), with only a few motor show flourishes such as 21-inch wheels.

The show car was powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged, direct injection four-cylinder engine producing 213kW and driving the front wheels via a six-speed manual transmission.

The chassis has also come in for treatment with wider tracks, an updated version of Opel's mechatronic FlexRide suspension and a limited slip diff.

Opel chief designer Mark Adams said the GTC was "the most sporty and dynamic interpretation of Opel's design language yet".

"With this car we wanted to create the most emotional Opel."

The other reveal on the Opel stand was an Astra Sports Tourer station wagon, boasting up to 1550 litres of carrying space.



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Wow! Opel seems sorta pushy... but with their new, more premium and emotional products, I am sure people to go in for the German premium aspect.

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