Adam Opel is set to launch its Ampera extended-range electric vehicle in Germany next month, but the auto makerâ€™s top sales executive says the Chevrolet Volt-based car already appears to be an early success.
Initial projections called for sales of 8,000 Amperas in the first year, but the auto maker now is eying 10,000-15,000 units, Alain Visser, vice president-sales, marketing and aftersales for Europe, tells WardsAuto in an interview.
â€śWeâ€™ve got over 6,000 reservations, which is way above what we anticipated,â€ť Visser says of the process in which a buyer can reserve an Ampera via the Internet with a E150 ($208) deposit.
, which has encountered some hiccups in ramping up production of the Volt at its Hamtramck, MI, assembly plant, is expected to be able to meet forecast demand for the Ampera.
â€śWe obviously have very direct discussions with Detroit,â€ť Visser says. â€śOur current indications are we have the capacity from a global point of view to fulfill (demand for the Ampera). So we are OK.â€ť
Ampera is an important part of Opelâ€™s efforts to move upmarket, the executive says.
â€śI think it is a really big step here in Europe, because there are a lot of manufacturers talking about e-mobilityâ€¦but we (are) the only one with an electric vehicle with no range limitation that is actually on sale today and not a concept car,â€ť he says.
â€śItâ€™s a massive opportunity for the Opel brand.â€ť
Visser points to recent market-share gains as evidence the auto maker is hitting its brand-building targets. Opelâ€™s penetration of the European light-vehicle market grew to 5.1% through August, from 4.8% year-ago, according to WardsAuto data.
â€śWe want to position ourselves more and more as the German brand, combining the German substance of quality and technology with emotion,â€ť he says. â€śThatâ€™s why design is becoming so important for the Opel brand.
â€śThe fact that our market share is going up is confirmation weâ€™re on the right path.
And we plan to increase and strengthen our position even more in 2012, including growing market share.â€ť
In addition to the Ampera, Opel is counting on a new small cross/utility vehicle due in second-half 2012 and a new small car below the Corsa in size, known internally as the Junior and slated for early 2013, to further buff the brand.
The Junior, Visser says, will be a high-style, upmarket small car targeted against theMini and 500.
â€śI like to call our vehicle an iPod on wheels,â€ť Visser says.
â€śItâ€™s really a cool, trendy vehicle â€“ a super design (that) has the (potential for) achieving volume, because that marketâ€™s steadily growing. Itâ€™s big volume.
â€śIt also shapes the brand. It is very good for the modern, German-brand image of Opel.â€ť
Further moves into electrification also are possible.
In September, Opel unveiled the RAK-e concept at the Frankfurt auto show. The EV resembles a 4-wheeled scooter, with seats for the driver and single passenger positioned in tandem.
It has a 62-mile (100-km) range, a top speed of 72 mph (120 km/h) and can be fully recharged on household current in three hours.
â€śReaction to that vehicle was overwhelming and extremely positive,â€ť Visser says, adding whether the car will make it to production remains unclear.
â€śIt is not impossible, but it is not at all decided. It is something we would like to start studying, particularly given the positive feedback of the Frankfurt show.â€ť