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Interview with Opel boss Karl-Thomas Neumann

Jens Erbeck
Interview with Opel boss Karl-Thomas Neumann
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The Geneva study Opel GT Concept caused a sensation. When will the series version come?

N eumann: We don't have a decision yet met. What is certain, however, is that the GT Concept will be an inspiration for future models. We are now waiting for the audience to react. Around 50 years ago, Opel couldn't help but later build the GT study in series. Of course, many people want this car. But it is not that easy to realize such a project. Basically, the Opel brand needs emotional cars with a windshield that makes you flatten your nose.

If you make the car, is the rear-wheel drive architecture set?

Neumann: If we were to realize the car, from my point of view it would be a mistake to use a front-wheel drive chassis. A GT doesn't have to be a supercar, but it should be fun. “Only flying is more beautiful” should also apply to him. It would have to be honest and affordable. We therefore also used the three-cylinder for the concept car and not an electrified drivetrain.

Are three-cylinders suitable for emotionality?

Neumann: In the meantime, yes. I used to be rather skeptical, but that has completely changed. Take the new Astra with a three-cylinder engine. The combination is a lot of fun, has a great torque curve and runs very smoothly. Even the gnarled sound fits perfectly. A sound generator in the GT would not be objectionable either. Just don't overdo it, otherwise it sounds unnatural.

Are Opel models like the Diplomat conceivable again?

Neumann: This is currently not an option because the segment is shrinking. That is why we prefer to use our financial resources to strengthen today's brand core.

What is the core of Opel today?

Neumann: We have dealt very intensively with this question over the past few years and identified three dimensions. Firstly, emotionality: We want an expressive design, large touchscreens - things that arePut a smile on customers' faces. The second is the long German tradition. We have been building cars with love and perfection since 1899. You can see that on the new Astra with its precise lines. And you will see this even more in our products in the future. The third thing is proximity: an Opel must be a car that can be reached by everyone.

Jens Erbeck
Not just a study: The Opel GT could come - on a third-party platform with rear-wheel drive.
What changes in the models?

Neumann: You can expect exciting cars in all segments. We are in the largest model offensive in our history - we will bring 29 new models to the market by 2020. Next, the Zafira is freshened up. Among other things, it becomes even more valuable inside. The next generation of the Insignia, which optically receives a lot from the Monza Concept, will also be exciting.

The SUV boom is continuing. Are you planning new models here as well?

Neumann: Absolutely. That was one of Opel's biggest weaknesses when I took office three years ago. The mocha is a huge success. The new Mokka X will bring another step up and look much sturdier. We also thought about something for the Meriva successor: The new one should be higher, a lifestyle car, but not as tall as an SUV, which is why we call it CUV, i.e. Cross Utility Vehicle. It should look a bit more urban and lifestyle. You still get a high level of utility as with the Meriva, and so I'm sure that it will open up new buyers for us other customers?

Neumann: The campaign has changed the way we look at Opel. The brand is seen positively again. That doesn't mean that you buy an Opel straight away. But we are again on the shortlist for many people. Thanks to cars like Adam and his appearance on the show 'Germany’s Next Top Model'we have more young customers again. Our return to football sponsorship and the cooperation with coach Jürgen Klopp also helped us a lot. Overall, we have already achieved a lot while working on the brand.

Jens Erbeck
i3 competitor: a small city SUV called Ampera-e is planned. It should come in 2017.
Are you profiting from the VW scandal?

Neumann: The damage to the industry is much greater than the benefit. We don't look at competitors, but rather at our model offensive.

How much is the exhaust gas scandal shaking up the current drive world?

Neumann: This is a huge topic that is often no longer discussed rationally. The diesel engine has many advantages and is important in order to meet the strict future CO2 requirements. We advocate making the discussion more objective.

What do you think when you hear about unannounced emissions tests on rental cars?

Neumann: That doesn't worry me. We need a clear framework within which one can say that we are adhering to limits or not. However, we have the problem that various organizations make their own measurements and publish any results. Many of the measurements lack any scientific objectivity. Defective cars were recently taken in Belgium. I am therefore very happy that we will soon have borders at EU level that we can deal with.

How did the decision to use already delivered Euro- To make 6 cars cleaner?

Neumann: We want to go on the offensive and set an example. That is why we have decided to implement an early and voluntary improvement with regard to the real driving emissions legislation. And we have decided to take the next step towards future emission standards - for both CO2 and NOX. FromIn the summer we will gradually start to publish the consumption according to the WLTP, i.e. Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicles Test Procedure, for individual models in addition to the official information on consumption and CO2.

Jens Erbeck
Neumann has been the CEO of Opel since March 1, 2013.
The government wanted to see a million electric cars on our streets in 2020, but that can hardly be achieved. What do you expect from politics?

Neumann: Politicians want CO2-neutral mobility, and for that you have to set intermediate goals like that of a million e-cars. To achieve this, industry and politics have to pull together. Purchase premiums are a very conceivable means. But I am skeptical as to whether the taxpayer should close the cost gap that still exists today between combustion and e-cars. One of our approaches is for many people to share such a car. The more people drive an electric car, the cheaper it gets. In any case, we have done our homework and with the Ampera-e we will bring a future-oriented electric car onto the market. It has a longer range than most other electric cars, and we will sell it at an affordable price.

You once said that an e-Opel is also a real Opel have to be. How should an Ampera-e differ from a Chevrolet Bolt?

Neumann: The design is an issue, but also something on it big screen happens, with all the networking opportunities. With variants that come from a modular system, you have to be very clever in order to remain authentic. We can do it!

How high is your pressure to make a profit this year?

Neumann: That is our big goal. A lot of good has happened in the past three years: we have grown and reduced our losses. But of course there are also difficulties that we have to face - such as the weak Russian market,from which we withdrew. Still, we believe we can do it. We have now achieved our financial targets for three years in a row. Of course we have to make an effort. Our current sales results and our modern range of models make us optimistic. I like to compare that to a marathon: we are at 30 kilometers, but not yet at the finish. We use all our strength and concentration on this.


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