FRANKFURT, Sept 10 South Korean auto makers are increasingly focused on chasing premium clients in Europe, creating an opportunity for General Motors to push Chevy, its own value brand, Thomas Sedran, president of Chevrolet Europe said on Tuesday.
"When I see the content and the pricing of Hyundai and Kia, it feels like they want to move up. This is where I see an opportunity for us," said Sedran, who has been in his job for only 70 days after moving over from GM's Opel, where he was strategy chief.
"The idea is with everybody moving up-market this creates space for us," Sedran told journalists at the Frankfurt auto show.
Chevy has struggled to win market share in Europe, a factor that led GM to bring in Sedran to run the European operations of Cadillac and Chevy.
A turnaround specialist, Sedran says Chevy clients want well-designed cars that are priced 10 to 15 percent below other mainstream brands like Opel.
"One of the biggest challenges we face as a brand in Europe is the comparatively low brand awareness," he said, adding that Chevy had a 1.5 percent share of the European market in August.
He said his first priority was to improve profitability, a factor that will result in fewer deals designed to "buy volume" such as bulk sales to rental companies.
It was too early to talk about major steps for addressing the European markets, such as shifting production away from Korea to Europe, he added.
Sedran, a former consultant at Alix Partners, said he wanted to heal a rift between Opel and Chevy, which has existed since 2009, when General Motors explored a sale of Opel to a group led by Canada's Magna.
"With the possible sale, the teams were split and this created some wounds," Sedran said.
"There is now more appreciation, understanding and respect than there was before. We need to get this into our cars, our distribution system."
There is potential for closer cooperation without cannibalizing each other, Sedran added. There was only about 20 percent overlap between the clients of Opel and Chevrolet. (Reporting by Edward Taylor and Christiaan Hetzner; editing by David Evans)