The writer, an automotive historian, has written a book on the history of GM automobiles manufactured outside North America.
To the Editor:
Keith Crain is right as to what Opel needs in its future: great product and marketing rather than an alliance with Peugeot ("Not the way to soar with eagles," Feb. 27). As for Peugeot, it should have grabbed the Saturn brand from General Motors to re-enter the North American market.
Yes, GM has had successful alliances with the likes of Suzuki and Isuzu because they had what GM did not: small-car/truck technology. In the successful alliance between Renault and Nissan -- and the one between Fiat and Chrysler -- one man runs both ships, something that is not planned for any Opel-Peugeot relationship.
Besides excess plant capacity, what hurt Opel was the loss of Toyota-like reliability and durability because of Jose Ignacio Lopez and his cost-cutting measures. While the reliability may have returned, the public perception has not caught up.
Another loss for Opel was the large (for Europe) family sedan and wagon market. Opel had the lion's share of the segment with the Rekord, Commodore, Omega and Senator, and those cars were major contributors to the bottom line. Minivans, or MPVs as Europeans call them, have taken over the category, and Opel has good representation but no longer dominates the market.
If Opel's goal is be a rung above the European Chevrolet, it needs a premium product. A Cadillac ATS with less content and a new wrapper sold as an Opel Senator would be a great brand ambassador. With a rear-wheel-drive platform so loved by German drivers, it would be ideally targeted at other premium brands.
Give the redesigned Senator a low waistline, rather than the shallow periscope windows that make cars look like wannabe SUVs. Cars should look fleet and agile. Remember, Opel is chasing after BMW, and look where its waistline is.