Here's why Toyota's Rush is doing so well

Toyota has apparently now completed its utter domination of the SA gravel travel market, writes Lance Branquinho.

The good, bad and ugly of Fernando Alonso's F1 career

'Fernando Alonso is one of the all-time greats', writes Egmont Sippel as he reflects on the incredible career of the double-world champion.

Opel's new direction

2003-09-25 17:01

John Oxley

Carl-Peter Forster

That's the message brought to South Africa this week by Carl-Peter Forster, the dynamic global head of Opel, here to participate in the launch of the new Opel Meriva, the first of the new-dimension Opels to be introduced here.

Forster, a former BMW engineering head, and later managing director of BMW SA, told Wheels24 the new styling trends were intentionally designed to be unlike anything else on the market, with bold looks that make Opels stand out from the rest of the pack.

At the same time the company would create new models that appealed to a wider audience, adding innovative thinking and niche marketing to its traditional approach, without abandoning its loyal supporters.

"Opel has to embrace a process of new and innovative fresh thinking and adopt a clean sheet approach to design issues," he says .

"Traditional customer and product segmentations must be revisited and if necessary discarded in favour of a totally new approach."

He says this process of - out with the old and in with the new - has resulted in a fresh approach to new model development based on defined lifestyles rather than the traditional approach of economy, performance and such like segmentations.


Under this new approach any one product may well serve more than one traditional segment and equally there could be a crossover between segments by different products.

"What was determined was that traditionally the core of the European market - and this is important for South Africa as an essentially Eurocentric market - is based around affordable middle of the range mass-market requirements, and the Opel brand was tailored around an 80% representation in this sector," he says.

"A more recent trend, however, is towards what is defined as a 'Modern Centre' market requirement where lifestyles and family values impact significantly on purchasing decisions.

"This has led to a change in thinking at Opel that has the company moving away from its 80/20 (traditional product/other product) product portfolio mix to one that is far more balanced in tune with emerging market trends.

"The new line of thought sees a product portfolio that has a 40/40/20 (Traditional/New Concept Modern Centre/Niche) mix of vehicles.

"Despite this realignment of its product portfolio, Opel recognises that the traditional market, served by products such as the Astra and Vectra, will always remain an important one. These are functional and affordable vehicles aimed at the traditional mass market.

"The new element of the market, that for so called modern centre vehicles, is a segment that is being influenced by the new design approach at Opel that is driven by customer requirements for vehicles that provide the sporty feel and experience of traditional products, but also deliver the high level of interior flexibility offered by modern MPVs, for example the 'Flex-7' seating arrangement found in the Zafira," he says.


The new Opel Signum, available in Europe is an example of this thinking. With this model Opel engineers have taken what would normally be a traditional large saloon and included features and specification that provide far more versatility and functionality.

This product features in what Opel has defined as an all new class - the Signum class - that goes beyond the normal "Executive" type specification with its enhanced versatility.

"The last 20% of the product mix is based around niche models, an area where Opel has had representation in the past, but has perhaps not maximised its opportunities. This segment includes models such as the Opel Speedster and the various Coupe variants," says Forster.

"These are image leading cars that position Opel as a technology leader."

Coupled to this new product segmentation approach are a number of non-product activities that will compliment the new Opel Master Brand Strategy that focuses on versatility, flexibility, and innovative and creative solutions to suit evolving customer product expectations.

"Underpinning these strategic elements are the non-negotiables such as safety and economy. One of the additional brand pillars is the development of partnerships; one-on-one relationships with customers driven by a new direction that focuses on delivering on specific customer needs," Forster adds.

Five pillars

Forster says the "revisitation" of the Opel brand revolved around five pillars aimed to make Opel successful.

These were quality, dynamism, versatility, creativity, and partnership.

He says the accent on quality is designed to win back the confidence of customers, while dynamism was the ability to accept change, to become more flexible, especially where the product mix was concerned.

Versatilty is the ability to create vehicles which would appeal to different and new target markets, such as lifestyle, while partnership was to offer modern innovative technology at attractive prices. The whole process is embraced by the slogan "Fresh thinking for better cars"

Can this new Opel Master Brand Strategy be adapted to the South African market?

"Certainly and by and large without exception," says Malcolm Gauld, Delta's sales and marketing director.

"Earlier this year representatives from Delta Motor Corporation were fully exposed to Opel's new way of thinking and set the challenge of adapting the strategy to South African needs.

"Our team found that Opel's new Master Brand Strategy had a 90% fit with where we believe we can, and must go, to further develop the Opel brand in South Africa.

"Our market follows a European pattern despite the influence of Japanese product in this country. By and large the dynamics that are driving Opel's European forward thinking apply equally in South Africa. As a result the decision has been made to adopt the Opel Master Brand Strategy in South Africa.

 Way of life

"Fresh thinking for better cars" is now a way of life for us at Delta.

"The timeline that we have developed for the roll out of this programme is an 18 month one.

"The first element, or strike as we refer to it, centres around the formal adoption of the Opel Master Brand Strategy, and the introduction of the first new product under this strategy, the Opel Meriva, an all new 'Modern Centre' vehicle from Opel that comes to South Africa just months after its international debut.

 "The Meriva is launched right into one of the fastest growing segments, that for compact MPVs, in South Africa.

"The Meriva launch will be followed by a progressive roll out of new product supported by a total refresh of the Opel identity in South Africa to align us with European Opel corporate and dealer ID.

"There will be a lot of product excitement and our product planners have already fully embraced the new wave Adam Opel thought process of lifestyle product segmentation for the introduction of that new product.

"As we roll out this programme we will be aiming at a dramatic shift in perception for the Opel brand in South Africa. Allied to customers will experience a new quality experience that builds on Opel's already solid reputation. At the end of the process Opel will be a more dynamic and exciting and performance oriented brand in South Africa."

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.