US carmaker General Motors has announced that it will cease selling vehicles made by its German subsidiary, Opel, in Japan. While Opel is now solely targeting Europe, GM has said it will push its global brands in Japan.
Opel hopes the Astra could at least be sold in the US in future
Opel's sales reached only a meagre 1,800 in Japan last year, down from more than 30,000 when the brand was at its peak in 1996. GM's Asia Pacific spokeswoman, Ayako Uchida, added that Opel sales will end before the end of the year as inventory runs out.
GM said that, according to its definition, Opel is no longer a global brand -- unlike brands such as Cadillac, Chevrolet and Sab, which the company says it will continue to push in Japan.
"Opel's domain is Europe -- and we want to continue to grow there," said an Opel spokesperson on Wednesday.
"Completely wro n g"
Opel's worker's council criticized the move, calling the decision "completely wrong."
Two months ago, the company also stopped selling its cars in India -- another decision vehemently opposed by workers' representatives.
Opel is now solely targeting the European market
"These decisions are totally wrong," said worker's council head Klaus Franz. "In both of these countries, the brand with its German engineering enjoys a good reputation."
Franz said he would like to see the Opel Astra be sold in the United States. But so far, GM's strategy in the US has been to promote domestic brands. The company has in the past cited costs, exchange rate problems and a difficult US market as reasons to leave the Opel brand in Europe.
There is some speculation, however, about whether the Astra could soon show up in the US under the guise of GM subsidiary Saturn.
"A final decision still hasn't been made," a company spokesperson said.
Crisis ma n ageme n t
Shifts in brands and sales at GM are part of a general overhaul at the company, which has been lamed by overcapacity and turnover problems. Last year, GM cut 9,500 jobs from its European operations and more cuts could follow.
The drastic measures appear to be having some effect. This week, GM reported a $445 million (350 million euros) profit for the first quarter of 2006, compared with a loss of $1.3 billion in the same period a year ago.