Opel CEO says electrification will modernize the brand
Opel / Vauxhall will become a purely electric brand in Europe by 2028 and by 2024 will only sell hybrid cars. Former Renault executive Uwe Hochgeschurtz, who became CEO of Opel on September 1, sees electrification as a great opportunity for the automaker. Hochgeschurtz spoke with Sister publication of Automotive News Europe Automobilwoche.
With the new Astra, Opel has the chance to make the brand known. Is this your mission?
I consider it my duty to further increase the brand’s notoriety internationally and to excite him. Our exceptional new models, such as the Mokka and Corsa, are particularly important here. The Astra is another big step forward. We will now be able to make better use of our “made in Germany” quality in communication than in the past. And of course, we will also benefit more from the fact that we have embarked on a particularly rapid and broad electrification of our portfolio. From 2024, there will be an electrified version for each model – few competitors will succeed.
Opel often has a better image abroad than in Germany, for example in Russia, Turkey or the UK with Vauxhall.
It is not correct to say that our image is only good abroad. But of course, you can and always should work on improving the brand image; a little more is always possible. But it is true that Opel enjoys an excellent reputation in many countries, and we will of course take this opportunity to expand our international presence.
There are still many traditional-minded Opel customers. Will they support electrification?
Electrification will make the Opel brand more modern and younger. And as a result, our customers will also become more modern and younger – not in terms of biological age, but in their attitude towards mobility. Opel can help these customers to change their mentality of mobility, to rejuvenate it. Because electrified Opel models, like the Corsa-e and Mokka-e, are something for the heart. We always say that the “e” doesn’t just mean electric, but emotional.
What is the next step for Opel in terms of mobility services? Stellantis is not considered strong in this area.
Opel will be part of this development. At Stellantis, we have a strong brand with Free2move, which will become even stronger. The next Rocks-e [Opel’s version of the two-set Citroen Ami microcar] can also certainly play a role for new mobility services.
What are your priorities right now? Do you study financial numbers, examine the product pipeline, or drive cars on the test track?
The most important thing is to enter into a dialogue. I seek dialogue with employees, with business partners. On my first day on the job, for example, I videoed all the employees and wrote to our dealers.
How well do you know Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares?
I know Carlos Tavares well and have done so for many years. I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t spoken to him personally. By the way, he says he grew up with an Opel Manta. He knows the brand very, very well.
You are not afraid of publicity. Do you like the task of being the Opel brand ambassador?
Being a brand ambassador is clearly the first job of any CEO. In this fast-paced world, you need clear direction, clear messages and also a brand “face” to present to the outside world. It has never been more important than it is today.