Opel is in the process of reducing the number of its dealers, particularly in Germany, and restructuring its network.
Carl-Peter Forster, chairman and managing director of Opel, said: 'We'll be re-dimensioning Opel's dealer network with a view towards improving profitability for the remaining dealerships and putting greater emphasis on used vehicles and fleet sales – without compromising on service to our customers.'
He was speaking at a conference in Gothenburg, Sweden, where he outlined the strategic change in direction being undertaken by Opel/Vauxhall to strengthen the company and its balance sheet.
'Our programme is squarely focused on four things: product first, and then brand, overall productivity and customer relation,' said Forster.
On the product side, he said Opel will invest 10 billion euro over the next five years on its product portfolio, and develop one new model every six months. The manufacturer will focus particularly on market niches, and plans to fill or create so many of these niches that they will eventually account for 40% of its model range.
Many of these new products will be MPV derivatives, with the Corsa-based Meriva due to go on sale in the first half of 2003, at about the same time as the Signum – a cross-over estate/MPV based on the Vectra.
'The market for conventional vehicles is not only shrinking, it is also becoming more fragmented,' said Forster. 'To create new market opportunities, Opel will be changing its model mix radically, weighted towards new concepts and contemporary body styles.'
Forster also pledged to continue Opel's efforts to improve the quality of its vehicles and said failure rates for its cars had fallen dramatically over the past four years. 'As a result, warranty cases have fallen by more than 60%,' he said.
Euphemistically referring to the end of car production in Luton and downward-adjusted capacity at Opel's German and Belgian plants as 'right-sizing', Forster said Opel had reduced its European production capacity to 270,000 units a year and he emphasised the manufacturer's closer working relationship with its Fiat joint venture partner.
'We save money through joint purchasing, share best practices, leverage development costs and we will benefit with two new diesel engines,' he said. Common components for future projects are also on the cards.