Tired of rumors surrounding General Motors’ European Opel wing? Turn away now, because here comes another. Reports surfaced last week suggesting the European brand is potentially considering returning to North America, a market it hasn’t actively been involved in since 1973.
In an interview with German magazine Auto Motor und Sport, Opel’s union chief Klaus Franz proposed the idea of selling a small car in America to ride the wave of demand for compact, fuel-sipping cars, especially among city dwellers. The report states that production could theoretically start as early as 2013, and it could be sold under the Junior or Allegra name (although we think Kadett has a nice ring to it). The proposed Opel small car appears to be similar to the European Corsa, which sits below the C-segment Opel Astra (sold on our shores under the Saturn nameplate from 2008-2009, and currently quite similar to Buick’s new Verano). Opel previously imported cars under its own name to America during the 1960s to the early 1970s, and Franz believes the Opel brand still carries a positive reputation among American consumers.
Nifty, but we think Franz’s idea may be a bit too pie-in-the-sky. Sure, Opel could help engineer a new small car for America, but returning the brand to the States, or even allowing it to be sold through another brand’s dealers (heck, Buick showrooms previously handled Opel sales and service some 40 years ago) may be a little too optimistic. GM has yet to respond to Franz’s proposal, but it’s highly doubtful that GM brass would want to add a brand, especially parsing itself back to four “core brands.” Additionally, GM has several small cars of its own in the pipeline, including the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic, which launches this fall to battle with other subcompacts entrants crowding the American market such as the Ford Fiesta, Mazda2, and Honda Fit.
GM CEO Dan Akerson and Opel made news last week after it was rumored that the CEO was losing patience with Opel’s inability to return a profit, and was interested in selling it to a willing suitor. Akerson and Opel have since attempted to assure the public — and most importantly, Opel employee unions — that no such deal was in the works. In a phone interview with Bloomberg earlier this week, Franz stated that “there is no concrete evidence suggesting that GM wants to sell Opel” — much like there’s no concrete evidence that Franz’s idea to relaunch the brand in the U.S. is anything close to a good idea.
But you tell us. Should Opel’s wares be sold in America by their own name, or should they be squeezed into other GM brands’ lineups (like Buick) as business cases allow?