Saturday, January 28

“Europe should have given more time for the transition to electric”

Uwe Hochgeschurtz (Opel)

The CEO considers that “they made mistakes in the past by focusing on volume” and that their priority is quality

Uwe Hochgeschurtz is the CEO of
Opel from the day the brand launched the new Astra, in September 2021. This model is instrumental for the company, as it “builds a bridge between the past and the future”, offering thermal engines, a plug-in hybrid and, from from 2023, a 100% electric variant.

The Astra will thus join the 12 current zero-emission models that the only German brand of the Stellantis Group has, which was born a year ago after the merger of the PSA consortia (to which it belonged) with FCA. It also indicates the future direction in design that the manufacturer will follow, which we had the opportunity to check at its development center in Rüsselsheim (Germany).

One of the main problems he had to face upon his arrival is the
positioning of your brand within the wide range of the manufacturer, which, in total, adds up to 14. “It is the first decision that a CEO has to make. Knowing who your customers are, your competition, how to reach the market… », he declares. And, although it is true, it is also true that he arrived at his position – directly from the management of Renault in Germany, Austria and Switzerland – with a healthy income statement.

Opel returned to profitability after entering the PSA Group in 2018. This trend has remained constant since then —it was not like that in his time at General Motors— and although they do not reveal the figures for each brand within Stellantis, they can “cover the investments with our profits, and these are very high because the transition from thermal motors to electric ones is taking place”.

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“In the past we did many things well and others not so well, such as focusing on high-volume strategies,” he admits. Today, he considers that selling many cars is not the goal. «Of course, you need to sell a minimum to cover costs, but the same thing happens with the baker: if he makes good bread, he sells a lot. Volume is the consequence of having a good car.”

In 2024, the brand wants there to be an electrified version for each of its models and that from 2028 it only produces zero-emission units. “There will be exceptions in some markets, but there is no alternative: Europe has decided that mobility will be electric and it will be the only way to enter the city center.”

Begining of uncertainty

For Hochgeschurtz, the industry is mired in uncertainty, which is what most hinders the development of its activity. “Today we have three big problems that three years ago were impossible to imagine: the coronavirus, the shortage of chips and the war in Ukraine.” Of these three, the one that has affected them the most is semiconductors.

“We have had to stop the factories and see how our volumes fell. In 2021 we said “next year will be better”, and for now it is worse. However, they have maintained their market shares – their competition is also suffering from shortages – and have met with a lot of demand.

Looking ahead to the second half of the year, he considers that the situation will improve, but not that it will return to the situation prior to the outbreak of the pandemic. “Geopolitically, it may not have been the best idea to produce these components only in Asian countries. […]because Europe is clearly the last to be served.

40 years of Corsa

Hochgeschurtz is clearly pleased with the subcompact, which is the best-seller in its segment in Germany, and which will see a special edition this year. “It is a very competitive car, which is made in a competitive factory.” In addition, he considers that it has a great name associated with it and that there would be no need to change it, as other brands have done with the move to electrification.

Regarding the possibility of producing models of other group brands in Figueruelas, he refuses to comment, but he does state that, in the long term, the battery plants will be located closer to the automobile plants, for logistical reasons. “They are heavy and considered dangerous, so it makes more sense to transport them from Valencia than from Germany.”

However, he denies that the decisions of his competitors affect Stellantis’ industrial policy and denies knowing the details of the Perte VEC, but, “if it promotes electrification in Spain, there is no reason for us not to participate in it.”

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