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Ford versus Opel in the brand check: who can take the corner?

Beate Jeske
Ford versus Opel in the brand check
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B both have a renowned name and a parent company in the UNITED STATES. Their rolling products are firmly anchored in the collective German car memory. And today both are no longer just fighting against domestic and European competition, but also against increasingly attractive offers from importers from Asia, especially Koreans.

We're talking about traditional German brands Ford and Opel who are not one these days face a very simple situation: on the European market, they have to position themselves behind the dominant brand VW, which, with a market share of 13 percent in April, is much better off than Ford (7.6 percent) or Opel and its British sister brand Vauxhall (6, 5 percent).

Audi, BMW and Mercedes are moving in from below

The Premium are moving in from below -Markets Audi, BMW or Mercedes with market shares between five and six percent on the fur, which, in order to achieve their self-set targets, are also doomed to growth. And finally, with Hyundai and Kia (3.4 and 2.7 percent market share), two new competitors are pushing their way into the volume market, who have long since ceased to be cheap imitators, but also design, develop and manufacture in Europe for Europe.

The current situation in Germany: In a growing market (plus 2.9 percent), all German brands except for Ford (minus 6.3 percent) and Opel (minus 9.1 percent) recorded gains in April compared to the previous year. From January to April, Ford sold almost 27,000 fewer cars than in the previous year (minus 7.1 percent), while the market share remained the same, while Opel /Vauxhall sold 56,600 vehicles fewer than in 2011, which corresponds to a minus of 16.4 percent.

Analogously, the utilization of the assembly plants has decreased considerably. Today, both companies are struggling with excess capacities, which has led to a location discussion at General Motors subsidiary Opel. Although the Antwerp plant was closed in 2010, the German production facilities are currently under more pressure than ever. Because from 2015 the new Astra will no longer be in Rüsselsheim, but in England and Polandbuilt. Opel plans to use the main factory, which is considered to be the company's most modern production facility, even after the current Insignia and Astra models are phased out. Rüsselsheim may then take over the production of the Zafira van, but that puts a big question mark behind the future of the Bochum plant, where the van is currently still being produced.

GM is keeping Opel on a short leash

Opel suffers above all from the fact that GM keeps its German subsidiary short and does not allow it to compete in markets outside Europe in order to increase the number of units. 'The sales strategy of the American parent company is very unfortunate for Opel,' said Professor Wolfgang Meinig from the Research Center for the Automotive Industry in Bamberg, assessing GM's corporate policy.

In order to at least reduce costs at its European subsidiary, General Motors went in the spring a cooperation with the PSA group (Peugeot /Citroen) and took a seven percent stake in the French. GM Europe should become more competitive through joint platforms with PSA - a strategy that is not rated positively by all experts. Because the two groups are in direct competition with their model range in many markets, savings are initially only conceivable in purchasing and production - which may be at the expense of Opel locations.

Ford also nibbles on the Europe-wide Effects of the debt crisis and low growth rates. The Cologne-based company responded to the heavy losses, especially in southern Europe, with an application for short-time work for their plant in the cathedral city. The Fiesta small car is built there, 80 percent of which is exported. The production lines there are to stand still for up to eight days by October.

Ford of Europe benefits more from being part of the group

However, the overall poor capacity utilization in the Rhineland is also due to the fact that the factories in Craiova (Romania) and Valencia (Spain) are currently preparing for model start-ups or changes. This is how the production of the minivan B-Max in Craiova while the Valencia plant is being set up to manufacture the new Kuga. It should also be noted positively that Ford of Europe benefits from its group affiliation more than Opel: With Fiesta, Focus, Mondeo and Kuga, four models will roll off the assembly line as real world cars in the future.

In addition, the Cologne-based company made an early start Innovations such as direct petrol injection and dual clutch transmissions. The analysts' assessment is therefore positive: 'We expect a faster recovery for Ford than for Opel - also because we see Ford as the stronger brand and Opel has an image problem,' says Henner Lehne from IHS Automotive. After all: Neither company has to hide with their model range. While at Opelthe start of the Mocha in the booming SUV segment and the facelifts of the Astra and Insignia are imminent, Ford is refreshing the Fiesta in autumn, and the 2013 models B-Max, Kuga and Mondeo are already in the starting blocks.

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