Exclusive: GM plans to more closely intertwine Buick and Opel brands

Tue Sep 17, 2013 4:36pm EDT
 
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By Paul Lienert and Ben Klayman

DETROIT (Reuters) - Buick customers in the United States and China could see more European design and engineering in an expanded range of new models by 2020, as General Motors Co (GM.N: Quote) more closely integrates global product development between Buick and GM's German brand Opel.

GM is hoping to strengthen both brands by more closely aligning their products, a strategy that could shave development costs and time, and increase their respective product offerings in major global markets.

For American and Chinese buyers, that could mean some cool new European-bred cars for Buick, from the sporty Opel Adam hatchback to the luxurious Opel Cascada convertible.

It also means some future Buick and Opel models of the same size may not look alike, but will share more common parts under different skins. In some of those cases, notably the next-generation Opel Insignia in Europe and the redesigned Buick Regal and LaCrosse in the U.S. and China, the basic development work will be centered in Warren, Michigan, with final design and engineering done locally by teams in Russelsheim, Germany, and Shanghai.

Unlike the effort to transform Chevrolet and Cadillac into stand-alone global brands, GM now intends to cover global markets with a combined Buick/Opel product portfolio, with Opel-branded vehicles built and sold primarily in Europe and similar Buick models built and sold mainly in the United States and China, senior GM executives said in interviews last week at the Frankfurt Auto Show.

Reuters interviewed GM Vice Chairman Steve Girsky, Opel Chief Executive Karl-Thomas Neumann and GM Europe Engineering Vice President Michael Abelson, who described the company's broad strategy, but declined to comment on the brands' specific product plans.

To implement its evolving global brand strategy, GM is taking a different approach to product development, one that is deeper and more complex than those employed by many of its multinational rivals.

Where many large multinational auto companies are building a variety of different models on common structures called platforms or architectures, GM now wants to shift toward basic modules that still use common chassis and powertrain components, but enable much more flexibility in terms of design, size and configurability. The modules can be better tailored to suit individual markets such as China and the United States, GM executives said.   Continued...

 
The logo of the carmaker Opel is seen on a roadside in Istanbul February 17, 2012. REUTERS/Osman Orsal