Astra to lose the Holden lion
Paul Gover in Detroit reports on Opel’s big plan
ACAR called Astra will be back in Australian showrooms early in 2012, but it won’t be a Holden.
Instead, the long-running red lion favourite will carry Opel badges as the German brand includes Australia in its worldwide push for extra sales.
Opel intends to become a global brand, not just another local arm of the General Motors’ empire, and will hit Australia with the Astra, and maybe the Corsa and Insignia.
It is aiming upscale and, although it will get back-room support from Fishermans Bend, it intends to operate as a separate brand to Holden and a rival to Volkswagen.
Some Holden dealers will get the franchise, but nothing is set yet.
‘‘There is definitely room for General Motors to have two intelligently positioned brands in Australia,’’ the head of Opel, Nick Reilly, says.
‘‘We’re not trying to beat the main- stream brands. Our time is just at the right time.
‘‘We will position ourselves where Volkswagen was. We’re not going to be stupid about this. This is not just an Australian play.’’
Plans for an Opel push have been bubbling in Europe for close to a year and Reilly says Holden is now being tapped for local expertise.
But Holden — with a small-car future tied to production from Daewoo in South Korea, together with local tweaking — is not a major stakeholder and will step back once cars are ready for sale.
‘‘We do not see Holden as a competitor at all. Holden is our play in Australia and will be forever,’’ Reilly says.
Opel believes it has a winner in the Astra, which will market a small family of cars including a coupe, with significant potential in other models.
It also has the award-winning Corsa baby car and mid-sized Insignia in its line-up, although they are not confirmed for Australia.
‘‘ We’re going to announce our product portfolio later in the year,’’ Reilly says.
He confirms a sales target of around 5000 vehicles when the first cars arrive, rising to around 12-15,000 inside five years.
The Australian plan is likely to include engineering input from Holden, which did a lot of tweaking on the Astra and mid-sized Vectra before they became too costly for local customers and the emphasis switched to South Korea. But it will not be reliant on Holden. ‘‘We insisted it should be considered as a separate business,’’ Reilly says.
Opel’s expansion will also take it to Israel and then to China — the biggest of the 12 targets in its export plan.
Going upmarket: the Opel Astra Sport Tourer. Opel plans to compete with Volkswagen in Australia.