General Motors has a problem in Europe. The world’s second largest automaker European Opel brand (named Vauxhall in the UK) is losing money faster than drunk guy in a strip club.
For decades, Opel has been GMs European bread-and-butter brand, competing with Ford, Peugeot, and Volkswagen for the likes of families looking for safe and comfortable, non-pretentious transportation. But the European car market has shifted away from the middle-of-the-road brands, and unless you’re a premium or low-cost brand, you’re in trouble, especially without any chance of growing your volume outside of Europe. Several competitors have come up with different strategies to cope with this reality.
Should Opel follow any of these strategies?
Volkswagen reacted to the rise of (mostly South-Korean) budget competition by moving its core VW brand more upmarket by introducing more advanced technology, better individualization options and more luxurious interiors, with some help from its premium Audi brand, meanwhile re-introducing Skoda as a budget competitor for price sensitive customers.
But it’s extremely difficult to move a mainstream brand like Opel upmarket into (semi)premium territory, and it will take huge investments into technology, design and marketing. Money that GM is not willing to spend on a “local brand” like Opel, especially one that has already lost an unimaginable $ 18 Billion in the past 12 years. And it will also take a lot of time, at least a few decades, to get the new, higher-end image into the minds of consumers. Time the brand doesn’t have, with stockholders breathing down GMs neck, looking for it to focus on high-growth markets and brands, offering a quick return on investment. Arguably, VW isn’t quite there yet either. [Read more…]