PARIS – Adam Opel hasn’t delayed or eliminated any planned new products during its latest financial crisis, nor will it in the future as it seeks to cut operating costs, its top engineer says.
“I’m proud to say even with all the economic difficulties here in Europe, we have protected the product programs,” Mike Abelson, Opel vice president-engineering, tells reporters in a roundtable interview following the debut of the auto maker’s new Adam minicar at the auto show here.
“With the company’s support, we’ve absolutely protected the new-product programs.”
Although parentreportedly is looking to reduce Opel’s administrative ranks by 30%, or about 1,000 jobs, there are no plans for reductions in the engineering department, Abelson says.
“In any engineering center across the world, we’re always trying to get more efficient. And here in Europe it’s certainly no different,” he says, pointing to new technology that will help shave product-development times and reduce some of the need for costly prototypes.
“We know the core of any turnaround in the automotive business is the products,” Abelson adds. “We have 23 new or revised products between now and 2016. We have 13 new powertrains. If you don’t have the products, you can’t execute, you can’t make a significant improvement in the business.”
Turmoil at the top hasn’t altered the product-development pace or course, according to the auto maker’s engineering chief.
“Most of the changes at the board are mostly around where the business is going,” Abelson says. “As far as the vast body of engineers and design studios in the organization, we really haven’t changed the direction of the new-product program.
“There really hasn’t been a big churn on the new-product portfolio.”
The tiny Adam, which goes against cars such as the500 in Europe, is an example of Opel engineering more efficiently, Abelson says. Although the body and interior are all-new, some existing components of the car, including much of its chassis, came from the Opel parts bin.
“We looked into our portfolio of parts, obviously,” he says of the Corsa-based Adam. “As we do new vehicles, we want to do them quickly. We took advantage of some systems from other platforms. (But) we really started there with a new design concept in the studio, and both inside and outside it’s a very new vehicle.”
Despite financial turmoil and questions about Opel’s future viability, there’s been no change in how parent GM views the role of the German arm’s engineering operations in Russelsheim, Abelson contends.
“Absolutely,” he says when asked if Opel will continue to play a part in GM’s global-engineering strategy. “We’ve got a very strong technical capability that the company sees as one of our strengths, and we will continue to take advantage of that.
“There’s a very talented group of engineers in Russelsheim. Adam is what we’re showing off most recently, but there’s a string of really good vehicles coming. I think we have a great future engineering in Russelsheim.”
Opel will continue to engineer products for the rest of the world, he says, focusing on vehicles “typically the size and type you would see in the European market.”
Details about how GM andPeugeot Citroen might blend their product-program strategies under their tentative collaboration deal remain unclear. But whatever happens, don’t look at it as a move by Opel to take its foot off the new-product throttle, Abelson says.
“We’re looking at four joint programs, but I wouldn’t read into that (that) the total engineering budget is going to be reduced,” he says. “There’s just more opportunities with.”