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In trouble in Europe, German brand Opel has launched in Australia on September 1 with 17 stand-alone dealerships completely separate from sister brand Holden’s showrooms and covering all state capital cities. As odd as it may seem, Australian consumers had not been able to buy an Opel-badged vehicle until now, whereas the other General Motors’ European offshoot, Vauxhall, was present in the country in the fifties and sixties. Opels have been imported to Australia for a while, but with a Holden badge: around 250,000 Astras sold here from 1996 to 2009, when Holden decided to source its imported range from more cost-efficient Chevrolet/Daewoo models manufactured in Asia.
It is no secret that Opel has designated Volkswagen as its key rival on the Australian market, positioning itself as ‘aspirational’ with its initial range the Corsa, Astra and Insignia carrying a premium over their Holden equivalents – the Barina, Cruze and Malibu respectively. Most of the Opel models going on sale in Australia are actually built in Poland, Spain or the UK, however the company is using German engineering as a major selling point, with their advertising tagline being ‘Wir leben Autos’ (German for ‘We live cars’), interestingly close to Volkswagen’s ‘Das Auto’.
Now why am I going on about this? Simply because the launch of a brand as significant as Opel is a very rare occurrence in a saturated market like Australia. Yes Australian car sales are up 9% on 2011 so far and on course to break another record in 2012 but it is one of the most competitive markets in the world with 48 manufacturers represented, more than in the US which is 15 times bigger! The annual buying rate of 44 new cars per thousand inhabitants in 2011 is also the 2nd highest in the world behind Canada (46) and ahead of the USA (41).
In this context, with main target Volkswagen selling 44,740 units in the country in 2011 (a 300% increase over the last decade), former global Opel boss Karl-Friedrich Stracke revealed the company hoped to reach 15,000 sales in Australia by 2015/2016. This is equivalent to what BMW (17,508) or Audi (14,511) sold here last year and triple Peugeot’s figure (5,520). It would also likely mean a spot in the Top 15 most popular car manufacturers – Click on the title of ‘Read more’ below for the 2011 Top 20 brands in Australia.
To give this figure a bit more perspective, Great Wall, hailed as a very successful recent launch in Australia albeit with a limited pick-up and SUV range, reached 6,690 sales for its first full year in 2010 and 8,665 in 2011. Since that ambitious declaration, Opel Australia has sent mixed messages. Managing Director Bill Mott said it is sticking to the 15,000 volume target: “It was a long-term target and it wasn’t necessarily three years. It was a target we need to achieve and work to, and we’ll do precisely that.” PR Manager Melanie Kerin said “it was a remark made regarding a long-term, stretch goal and not a statement issued by Opel Australia.”
Let’s start by looking at Opel sales in Australia for September, which will be available in early October on BSCB…
See more pictures and the Full Year 2011 Top 20 brands Ranking Table below.