So here they come. Via my snail mail box a few weeks ago, came the first tangible evidence for the arrival of General Motors troubled European branch, Opel.
Technically, I already own one (kind of) with all manner of Achtung stickers under the bonnet of my well weathered 2000 Holden Vectra, and, ownership is not without it's challenges.
Though my particular unit must be a Wednesday car, only midly possessed by the Lucas gremlin, Vectras in general have a bad reputation for undiagnosable stalling issues and diabolical electrickery, so much so that even the local shitbomb peddlers would not even give me a lazy 2 grand for it. To be fair, she just ticked over 278000 kms, but last time (also the first time) I got a lift from Mr. Tow, I was regaled with horror stories of disintegrating engines (due to tardy timing belt maintenance) and bazillion dollar spare key programming.
Does that make me gun shy about the new Opel range? Hell to the no! Have you seen what they are offering?
Let me just firstly say, that you'll have a hard time prying my left hand from the steering wheel of my 210kw RWD Sportwagon, because my right hand will be alternately punching you in the face and family jewels (whether they be nuts or the other kind). However, all three model ranges (compact Corsa, small[ish] Astra, and mid size Insignia) all come with a beautifully modern sleek design, and, at least a passing interest in going around corners.
Most exciting for me, is not the hot hatch GTC, but the arrival of 2 new wagons to the Oz market.
Firstly, the return of the Astra wagon, which I can only hope includes a turbo manual something (petrol), will hopefully help to rid the roads of all manner of clumsy looking inefficient faux SUVs (from the Mitsu ASV to the Angry Birds inspired French 3008). Whilst it may not wipe them off the map, it's a very handsome start.
Next is the Vectra.... ahem, sorry Insignia Estate, which is the first FWD based wagon I've lusted after since I cant remember when (though AWD R36 Passat gets an honorable mention). Virtually perfect proportions, stunning backend and an interior flare that pulls up short of gauche, all add up to a vehicle with real potential in the Australian premium market.
I would even like to see the Zafira Tourer make an appearance but I guess they just don't know if the Oz market is ready yet. And that is the real question. Can Australia's already crowded market provide any meaningful volume for Opel?
There are signs of higher ticket prices for small to medium vehicles (such as Golf which is the prime competitor for the Astra in Europe) and unlike Volkswagens current crop, the Opel range don't look like Teutonic toasters.
So what do Opel need to do? They need to create brand recognition for their fancy lightning bolt, which allows the owner to believe they are driving something above and beyond the much revered VW.
That is certainly a hard task as VW fans can be just as one-eyed as the fans of any other brand, but, Opel do win many European comparisons against the VW equivalents. So I guess you will see a lot of quotes from Europe about how good Opel is, and that is a pretty sound strategy. With 38 awards relating to design, innovation and including European Car of the Year, the Insignia certainly has a healthy pool of praise from which to draw.