The newly-minted boss of Opel Australia, Bill Mott, has delivered a full rundown this week on what we can expect to see from the German brand when it hits Australia late next year.
GM's premium European brand will kick off its Australian launch with a three-model assault that will include the European Car of the Year Award-winning Insignia medium car, the small Astra and the light Corsa.
“We’re able to draw from our European portfolio and offer the right mix of models that will appeal to Australian customers and hit the sweet spot for these segments,” Mr Mott said.
All three models share a connection with Australia, thanks to Opel's past role as a source of small cars for Holden.
In fact, it was Holden's move away from Opel to the more cost-effective Daewoo/Chevrolet offerings that eventually spurred GM to bring the Opel brand to our shores.
Mr Mott said the arrival in Australia of the 112 year-old carmaker is a response to the strong demand for European brands - particularly those of German origin.
“These brands have enjoyed strong growth which is significantly higher than the market average. Bringing Opel to Australia gives GM an opportunity to compete in this really important area of the market.
“Australians will quickly discover that Opel delivers on the promise of German engineering, but not in a conservative way.
In the Opel line-up, the Insignia replaces the familiar Vectra name - a move that proved more fruitful in Europe than the Epica did for Holden when it replaced the Vectra in Australia.
The Insignia will be offered here in Sedan and Sports Tourer wagon form, with two engine options: a 2.0 litre direct-injected petrol and a 2.0 litre diesel, both with an automatic transmission only.
The Astra name continues in the Opel line-up, and with Holden replacing the small Opel first with the unpopular Viva and later with the wildly successful Cruze, Opel is free to bring the name back to Australia.
“Astra is already a much loved nameplate in Australia with previous models selling under sister brand Holden between 1996 and 2008. So people might know Astra, but they don’t know this Astra,” Mr Mott said.
The Australian-delivered Astra range will include the five-door hatch and Sports Tourer wagon models.
Engine options will range from the 1.4 litre turbocharged petrol engine already available witht he Holden Cruze, through to a 1.6 litre turbo petrol and a 2.0 litre turbodiesel.
Fans eager to see the sleek Astra GTC three-door on Australian roads won't be satisfied straight away, but Mott said this week that the coupe-like hatch could be considered for "the next phase" of Opel's Australian roll-out.
“GTC is a totally different concept compared to traditional three-door models. It will launch in Europe before the end of the year and we’ll be looking at it closely for the Australian market," Mr Mott said.
The smallest offering in Opel's Australian line-up will be the Corsa, its name familiar to local trainspotters as the Holden Barina of generations gone by.
“Corsa is an iconic car in Europe. Over the last three years it’s sold on average more than 400,000 units a year and has been the best-selling three-door model in the light segment,” Mr Mott said.
“In Australia we’ve already had extremely positive feedback on Corsa in our customer research and we think it’ll become one of the most important models in our local line-up.”
Unlike the Astra, Opel's Corsa did not keep its European name when it came to Australia in 1994, taking instead the name of the Suzuki Cultus-'based' Barina that it replaced.
The Barina name lived on with the Daewoo-sourced models that followed, and continues with the globally-developed sixth-generation Barina due in Australia next month.
OPC - Opel Performance Centre
An Australian debut for the OPC range hasn't been confirmed, but Mr Mott said these models are under consideration for a future debut.
“OPC would be naturally at home in a market like Australia where drivers appreciate great performance and handling in large cars and hot hatches,” he said.
The Road To Launch
Opel Australia has yet to reveal a specific launch date, although with a second-half 2012 launch confirmed, it is expected that the brand will debut at October's Australian International Motor Show in Sydney.
With 12 months until it opens its showrooms to the public, the German carmaker has a lot to do.
“Launching a new brand in Australia is a challenge, but it’s also an opportunity to take a blank canvas and tell the Opel story, Mr Mott said.
"We might be a newcomer to Australia but we have a 112-year history of innovation and automotive engineering in Germany."