Along with just about everyone else who watches the industry, we’ve been keeping a close eye on Opel’s progress along the road back to profitability. The Germany-based General Motors brand isn’t quite there yet, but vital signs are stabilizing, thanks largely to GM’s decision to bring in Europe Executive VP Karl-Thomas Neumann from Volkswagen, and Europe CMO Tina Mueller, formerly from the cosmetics industry, of all places.
Fortune published a recent story, looking at how Opel’s bounce back into fiscal health has been largely driven by these two executives. The appointment of GM Europe CMO Tina Mueller in 2013 would turn out to be a fortuitous one; she was the mastermind who decided to bring photographer Karl Lagerfeld onboard to shoot the 2015 promotional calendar for the Opel Corsa, a photographic series which would drum up a lot of attention for the brand as it featured Mr. Lagerfeld’s cat Choupette as the star model.
Simultaneously, the Opel brand was kickstarting an ambitious new marketing campaign in Germany called “Umparken Im Kopf,” which translates approximately to “Repark Your Mind.” Opel’s market share, then on the decline, halted through 2013, and gained value the next year.
2013 also saw the appointment of Karl-Thomas Neumann to the position of GM Europe Executive Vice President. This launched the Opel brand on a path of investing heavily into new product, increasing quality, and drafting a new, more cohesive brand signature in terms of design. Said Ms. Mueller: “In earlier times, when Opel was on top, the name stood for German engineering quality and design that was a little different. We had quality problems [the last few years] and design was boring.”
Now, Opel is poised to make an almost certain comeback, assuming that the crumbling Russian ruble doesn’t hinder the brand’s performance. General Motors forecasts profitability for next year, and with the recent retreat of the Chevrolet brand from Europe, plus Neumann and Mueller at the helm, that’s likely to be just the beginning.