GM’s Plan for Global Domination Would Meld Buick and Opel, Further Chevrolet

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General Motors is still trying to work out major pieces of its new global brand architecture, namely: What does it do about Buick? And Opel? And what does it do about Europe?

As they continue to elevate Chevrolet and Cadillac as truly global brands, GM execs seem to be melding Buick and Opel to some extent on a second tier of brands. A new Reuters report said that the company already is moving to more closely integrate global product development between Buick and Opel in a way that would cut costs—yet allow each to refine and extend its brand identity and unique products.

That could mean some new European-bred cars under the Buick marque for consumers in the United States and China, the biggest geographic markets for the GM premium brand. And similar Opel-branded vehicles would be built and sold primarily in Europe, the news service said.[more]

A new modular approach to design would enable all of this by using common chassis and powertrain components but enabling much more flexilibity in terms of size, design and configurability, to better suit individual markets. An example of the new vehicles that could result from that relationship might be the Opel Monza concept that debuted last week at the Frankfurt auto show; Buick didn’t have a display at the show.

“This Buick-Opel guiding principale of similar if not identical vehicles is the right thing to do,” Jim Federico, a GM executive director in product development, recently told Bloomberg. “It makes it extremely clear for brand identity for Chevrolet and Cadillac, and these [Buick-Opel models] can fit nicely in the middlle.”

Firming up such a brand architecture also would help GM decide what to do specifically in the European market, where it has been trying to unfold Chevy more completely as a global brand—but where Chevy sales have continued to struggle, especially during the ongoing recession.

And there, Opel’s traditional mid-market identity has caused some unwanted cannibalization. “The [Chevy] product we want to do in the future should differentiate stronger and more” than Chevrolet and Opal brands do currently, new Opel CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann told reporters at the Frankfurt show, according to Automotive News.

Nudging Opel upscale in Europe, in part to make it a better global partner with Buick, would give Chevrolet the desired space in the European market. And it would make a more sensible brand constellation for GM worldwide.

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