Chevy sees Korean push upmarket as chance to expand in Europe

FRANKFURT, Sept 10 Tue Sep 10, 2013 10:35am EDT

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FRANKFURT, Sept 10 (Reuters) - South Korean auto makers are increasingly focused on chasing premium clients in Europe, creating an opportunity for General Motors to push its own value brand Chevy, 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 upmarket this creates space for us," Sedran told journalists at the Frankfurt car show.

Chevy has struggled to win market share in Europe, a factor which 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 which are priced 10-15 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 which 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 cannibalising each other, Sedran added. There was only about 20 percent overlap between the clients of Opel and Chevrolet.

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