What an Opel fan has to say to the Opel boss
Opel fan Jan Spychala and Opel boss Karl-Thomas Neumann talk shop at Senator B. Spychala has already owned such a car, it was his favorite Opel so far
Source: HARALD DAWO
Since Karl-Thomas Neumann started working as Opel boss, he has been talking about the brand’s resurgence. We wanted to know how it would be perceived in the real world, so we met him with an Opel fan.
M.similar, young, successful and Opel driver. Industrial technologist Jan Spychala, 30, from Berlin has never loved anything other than the brand with the lightning bolt. Nevertheless, he is not perfectly happy, what he was able to say personally to Opel boss Karl-Thomas Neumann, 53. The two met in the company’s museum workshop, which is not open to the public, and talked for an hour about cars that existed and should be.
The world: Advent is the time of desires. Except for world peace and health – what does the Opel boss want??
Karl-Thomas Neumann: That Opel is getting back to where the brand used to be. We are already the third largest car brand in Europe. And we want to be number two again in the long term. We want to be profitable again in 2016 and earn a five percent margin in 2022.
Jan Spychala: I hope that you will also build cars that fans like me will enjoy. I don’t just expect cars to get me from A to B. But also some that catch me emotionally.
Neumann: Opel used to stand for two things in particular: great design that really grabbed you, and fantastic technology. That’s exactly where we want to go again. Together with being German, which stands for quality and the art of engineering, these are the two criteria by which we now decide everything we do.
Spychala: Good to hear. But everything is generally rounder, more teardrop-shaped, less massive and angular. Someone like me who is enthusiastic about Opel, but feels at home in the 80s or 90s, finds it difficult to find it again. I like my Insignia Sports Tourer, but I also hope that there will be a huge car. Something like this has become rare.
Karl-Thomas Neumann also enjoys driving the Senator. But he gives the fan no hope of a comeback of the large sedans with rear-wheel drive
Source: HARALD DAWO
Neumann: Now times have changed. The car has to meet CO2 requirements, which is why it needs a good drag coefficient. Then there are high demands on pedestrian protection, which significantly influence the design. Still, you can achieve a certain level of expressiveness. With the Monza at the IAA, we showed where it was going. We want to transfer a lot of the face of this study to the future models, which should actually become the new design line from Opel.
Spychala: I like that. But I’m also a retro sports car fan. Something like the Ascona 400B here in the workshop, I could imagine that today. As an Insignia-based coupe, for example. A large coupe with space, and as far as I am concerned, with power.
Neumann: You imagine all kinds of great cars that are in any segment. And when you do the market analysis, you notice how small these segments are – and that that doesn’t result in a deal. You, Mr Spychala, want a big car …
Spychala: Yes, personally.
Neumann: … but more and more people want a smaller car. And they shouldn’t be boring either. With the ADAM, we have such a car that is highly emotional. Of course, it has a completely different character than a large sedan. But the new Premium can also be small and chic. It is defined through individualization. At ADAM I can put together my own car that only exists once. Or with the mocha, we’ve found a whole new segment, that of the small off-road vehicle. This makes us the most successful in all of Europe right from the start.
A quick cell phone photo: Jan Spychala discovers an Omega V8 from 2000 in the basement of the museum workshop. The 5.7 liter engine developed 312 hp, but the car never came…cht on the market
Source: Stefan Anker
Neumann: Of course you have to do it right. But basically, you can say that most of the segments are stagnating or getting smaller – except for that of the SUV. One could almost ask: will we all drive SUVs in the future?
Spychala: I hope not.
Neumann: I don’t think so either, because there is a trend towards reducing CO2 and making cars even more efficient. That’s why we’re looking for the right path, I have high expectations. We are now trying to develop and build cars that are somewhere between SUVs and passenger cars. Finding such new segments has always been one of Opel’s strengths.
The world: Jan, you nod so kindly. But crossover isn’t your loot scheme at all.
Spychala: No, it is not, you have to be very clear.
Neumann: I didn’t want to sell him that either.
Spychala: But I do not believe that there is still a place at Opel that I can take.
Neumann and Spychala sit in proper style on chairs with a checkered flag design, with sports models of the Opel GT in the background. The beautiful collection thrives in secret, because Opel is not yet…t has enough money for a stylish new museum building
Source: HARALD DAWO
Neumann: Yeah yeah.
Spychala: Where I find myself, even if it may not be a senator or something like that. The Insignia is a decent car. But I had an Omega before that. The last one there was. I really loved the car. Big, powerful engine, the car was equipped at its finest. And – of course, this is also a matter close to the heart for many Opel fans – it had rear-wheel drive. Many of us enthusiasts who grew up in car technology in the 70s, 80s and 90s say: rear-wheel drive, everything else is just a compromise.
Neumann: Yes, of course we have to address the fans. But today there are also other criteria that have become very important. Most people want a safe car, one that drives well, and front-wheel drive is great for doing that. Incidentally, I believe that, in addition to its driving characteristics, a car is also increasingly becoming a place where you simply feel good. Where you can close doors and windows, where you can listen to loud music or just have some peace and quiet. This becomes more important in a society in which everything is public.
Spychala: I find myself there right now.
Neumann: That’s why it’s important to me that we have good sound systems. Infotainment systems that can be operated and that are open to rapid developments.
The world: If I buy an ADAM now and drive it for six years, I will have three new smartphones during that time. Will I be able to display all of their apps on the car’s screen?
Neumann: We already have that largely under control, and in the next generation we will have it completely under control. We already have a navigation system in ADAM that runs on the mobile phone and is displayed and operated on the large screen of the car.
Spychala: I am curious to see how this will continue. Especially the Instagram generation that shares everything, that lets everyone know what they’re doing – you have to meet them.
In the basement of the workshop there are also old prototypes or fun projects that never went into series production, such as this Corsa Moon from 1997 – a showpiece for the press presentation of the there…one-time Corsa facelift
Source: Stefan Anker
Neumann: You have to get young people excited again. Car buyers are, on average, relatively old.
The world: Mr. Spychala is 30, you still have to give him a present.
Neumann: With the ADAM we are on average 37 years old, which is sensationally young. Most of them are women too.
The world: Young women in stylish small cars with perfect infotainment. Jan, is that still Opel for you?
Spychala: My old Opel, which I have come to love, are different. But you can’t hang around forever either. If you try to revive history, it is no longer history. In this respect, I am also very happy that no attempt is made to revive the Manta.
Neumann: I’m skeptical about that, especially when it comes to retro design. But you can definitely think back to your past. Opel has always been emotional – that used to mean a lot of space and a lot of displacement. Today these are the little things. I always say: when you walk towards the car or sit in it and touch something, you have to smile.
Spychala: Just like me when I opened a car magazine and saw the Astra OPC Extreme study. That could be an Opel that I would order right away.
The world: Are there enough others who would do that??
Exclusive tour through the holy halls. The Opel museum workshop is actually more of a workshop than a museum. This is where the company’s oldtimers are looked after and serviced…tet so that they are fit enough to take part in classic car rallies
Source: HARALD DAWO
Neumann: Racing and racing-ready cars for fans are extremely important for Opel. That’s why we have the OPC series and will continue to offer such top-of-the-range engines. The consideration is whether to go one step further. But if we do that, the series will always be very small.
Spychala: I like the Insignia OPC too, not a bad car. But actually it’s not really sporty, just sufficiently motorized. If you think outside the box at Opel, you realize that there are some brands that can afford such extremely sporty prestige vehicles.
Spychala: As a fan, I ask myself: why not Opel too??
Neumann: So I think the 325 hp in the Insignia OPC are quite sporty. When the brand makes a comeback, we simply have to think very carefully about where to invest. At the moment we cannot cover all wishes in terms of breadth. But we want to take care of individual requests. The products then have to pay into the brand, because it should shine. You have to be able to put your Opel key on the table with pride.
The world: Opel currently has a 7.3 percent market share in Germany, and the trend is rising. It used to be 17, and now Opel is no longer just behind VW, but also behind Mercedes, BMW and Audi. Perhaps this is also due to the social development towards more prosperity and thus higher quality cars?
Neumann: No. When a society changes, a brand has to go with it. The main problem for Opel has been that the brand has watered down its profile. What Opel stood for in the past had been forgotten. I haven’t even seen Opel myself, but my first car was an Opel.
Spychala: Which one?
Neumann: A cadet D..
Spychala: My first car was an Omega 3000. I was 19 then.
Neumann: For me the question then arose: Golf or Kadett? There was no other decision. Opel was at eye level. So I decided on the cadet – and was very proud. And then I lost Opel. Then I stopped looking, even though I work in the auto industry. Opel had become a bit faceless and it was no longer clear what the brand stood for. That becomes a burden, because buying a car is demonstrating consumption. Everyone sees what you are driving. And if you can no longer quickly say why you drive an Opel, that’s bad.
The wonderful dark green car is not just a Record B from 1966. It is the former private car of the legendary national soccer coach Sepp Herberger, who won the Nationalman…led to the first world championship in 1954
Source: Stefan Anker
The world: And now?
Neumann: When I started here, it immediately became clear to me that when you get into the cars there is no reason not to buy them. Take a look at the Astra GTC, it’s adorable. Then there are people who say yes, but this is an Opel. The "but" has to go. We are working on that. And we can do it too.
Spychala: And you should also work on taking the classic car enthusiasts with you. Sometimes you feel left alone at the parts counter. I needed a rear window rubber for my Senator and I would have paid 1000 euros for it, but I just didn’t get one. Do you see no market there or do you want people to always buy new Opel??
Neumann: No definitely not. We have an essential interest in our old cars being loved, cared for and shown. There are often economic reasons when parts are no longer available. I can imagine that other manufacturers who have been doing better for many years will do better. Or take the workshop: there are such beautiful cars here, but nobody can see them. We don’t have any form of exhibition to make it accessible to the public. Although everyone I go through here with is excited and says we need to show that. We will do that too, but we still have to strengthen ourselves economically. And then I promise you that we will do even more for classic car fans than we do now.
Spychala: I take your word for it.
The world: Do you have an old car yourself??
Neumann: I even have two, but I don’t know whether to reveal it.
The world: You are the boss, you can decide.
Neumann: One is a GT. I’m getting the second one right now, it will be a Diplomat Coupe.
The world: There were already photos of you and the car.
Neumann: Yes, but that was the diplomat here from the museum workshop. I fell so in love with it that I said: I have to have a car like this too.
Opel boss Karl-Thomas Neumann took a good hour to answer questions from Opel fan Jan Spychala and “Welt” reporter Stefan Anker (l.)
Source: HARALD DAWO
Spychala: I’m clearly missing a manta. I’ve been driving an Opel since I’ve been driving a car. I took everything I could, but funnily enough, I haven’t had the manta that fascinates me the most. Maybe my expectations were too high. There have been seven attempts to buy one, but each time I drove home with my money and license plates.
Neumann: I think that the Opel classics are still relatively cheap. And I am sure that if we continue our work with the brand successfully, the Opel classics will also have huge potential for value growth. So I can only encourage you to buy a Manta.
Spychala: As long as it is still affordable.
Spychala: There will definitely be another old Opel in my life. Or a completely new one, maybe the extreme.
Neumann: That wouldn’t be bad either.
Spychala: Really, I would look at it.
The world: Isn’t there a proximity problem with the price?
Neumann: Yes. But proximity doesn’t have to mean that we sell everything.
The world: You shouldn’t, but Opel has never been the most expensive brand.
Neumann: We don’t want to be either.
The world: Even.
Neumann: But Opel always had cars that were expensive.
Spychala: Lotus Omega.
The most beautiful couple from the workshop basement: on the left is a design study for the Manta B from 1971, i.e. the second generation of the successful coupe. Right is the right…ale Manta B, here the 1977 draft for a Black Magic special model (110 hp, 187 km / h), which did not go into series production
Source: Stefan Anker
Neumann: Yes. And if you now make top-class cars like the Extreme, then the price is the least of the problem.
The world: Jan, is it really important to you as a fan that a manufacturer has to think about such “little things” as CO2? Or do you say: The main thing is a great car for me.
Spychala: I’m realist enough to know that some topics may never come up. What good is it to me if Opel builds the car that I absolutely want, but then it’s the nail in the coffin for the brand.
The world: How do you both see the chance that, let’s say, two people will sit down for a gasoline talk in 2040 and then say: Oh, you remember the 2014 Corsa?
Spychala: Everyone knows this: when they are small and drive in a car, an emotional bond is created. Or if I now imagine an 18-year-old novice driver with her ADAM who loves this car that she has just bought. And then in 2040 she will say: Do you remember? Or maybe she even opens the garage and says: Look, there it is.
Neumann: I feel the same way.
The world: But in the 80s the cars had more character because the developers were much more free in what they did.
Neumann: Of course, we take care that cars do not become arbitrary. That there is still an emotional bond with the car. That is why we are all investing so much in this topic. And that’s why there will also be fans who say in 30 years’ time: I’m now screwing an H license plate onto the Corsa from 2014.
The world: It is noticeable that you are very familiar with the old Opel models here, although you never worked for Opel until 2013.
Neumann: While I wasn’t that interested in the brand for years, I’ve now developed a real excitement. What I found was an unbelievable feeling from the Opel people for their brand and a hunger to be successful again. And while working on the new Astra, I saw very clearly what kind of energies can be released here. When you challenge your colleagues and say: let’s try to be the best.
Spychala: But how independently can you act there? A large corporation sits above you.
Opel built this rocket vehicle in 1928, and Fritz von Opel set a world speed record with it on the Avus in Berlin: 238 km / h. The drive consisted of 24 solid fuel pumps…eten
Source: Stefan Anker
Neumann: That is much better than it was for many years. We have everything we need here, our own design center, a huge development center with 7,000 engineers. Nevertheless, the comeback cannot succeed as an Opel brand alone. We sell just over a million cars a year, but have a full range of 15 model lines. If you only sell 50,000, 100,000 or even 200,000 pieces of each model, that’s not enough. Cars like Corsa, Astra, Mokka have to run in millions in order to be competitive in terms of costs. And we can do that with GM.
The world: With platforms.
Neumann: With intelligent architectures. We can then put cars around the world on it, be it a Buick or a Chevrolet. You have to bring that down to a common denominator, but every corporation has this requirement. The good thing is that, unlike my predecessors, I am also on the GM board of directors and participate in decision-making there. I don’t always get my way, but there is no decision in which I could not have presented the Opel point in full. I see it as a great help that we are part of the group. That we are trusted to manage this. That they decided to finance us with four billion and take Chevrolet out of the European market. Those are all decisions that say: GM relies completely on Opel in Europe.
Spychala: Thank you for the interview and your time.
Neumann: Willingly. Then all you have to do now is find a suitable manta.
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