Opel plans electric car offensive

Posted on October 24, 2011


RUESSELSHEIM — General Motors’ Opel/Vauxhall division wants to position itself as leader in electric cars, the unit’s sales and marketing chief Alain Visser said.

“We want the Opel brand to be the market leader in electric mobility,” Visser told Automotive News Europe in an interview.

With the debut of the Ampera plug-in hybrid car next month, Opel will bring to market its first electric car. The Ampera, a sibling to the Chevrolet Volt, has a small gasoline engine that can extend the range of the car’s electric motor.

Visser said the Ampera will boost Opel’s image and give the brand a head start of three years over competitors in electric cars. Opel already has already 6,000 pre-orders for the car and aims to sell more than 10,000 Amperas next year, he said.

Opel is working on two more electric vehicles: a production version of the two-seater RAK-e vehicle that debuted at the Frankfurt auto show in September and a battery-powered minicar.

Said Visser: “By the year’s end, we’ll decide whether to bring the RAK-e into regular production. If the decision turns out to be positive, the RAK-e could reach the market as early as 2013.” The model likely will be priced between 10,000 euros and 12,000 euros and may be built by KTM subsidiary Kiska in Salzburg, Austria, sources say. Kiska helped with the RAK-e’s development.

Visser said Opel is working on an electric minicar as well, but did not give more details. Automotive News Europe sources say the car most probably will be a sister model to the electric version of the Chevrolet Spark minicar that GM plans to launch in 2013.

Visser’s comments that Opel wants to be a leader in electric cars in Europe challenge the Renault-Nissan alliance, which is investing 4 billion euros in a bid to become the No. 1 global producer of electric cars. Renault-Nissan aim to sell 1.5 million EVs a year by 2016.

Renault Chief Operating Officer Carlos Tavares told Automotive News Europe: “Some people might think our EV strategy is a big bet. For me, it is not a bet, but a big insurance policy.”

via Opel plans electric car offensive.

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