December 16, 2009 / 4:48 PM / 9 years ago

GM's Opel to bring out hybrids in 5 yrs-CEO

FRANKFURT, Dec 16 (Reuters) - General Motors’ [GM.UL] European arm Opel will launch hybrid models within five years as part of a campaign to overhaul and freshen its product line, GM Europe head Nick Reilly told a German magazine.

“We are confident that we can not only maintain but also expand our market share in Europe,” he was quoted as saying by Auto Motor und Sport.

Opel has a share of 6.5 percent in Europe, 7.3 percent in western Europe and 9 percent in its home base of Germany, he said, adding the share in Germany should rise to 10 percent and beyond in the medium range.

Reilly said Opel would begin a push to bring out hybrid models, a strategy that the magazine said his predecessor, Carl-Peter Forster, had deemed too expensive.

“We will have hybrid engines in our programme, in the next five years, Reilly said. Its first electric car with range-extending technology — the Ampera — will hit the market at the end of 2011.

“We expect (to sell) 10,000 to 15,000 vehicles a year at the start. Later it could quickly become substantially more,” he said

He said sales of a pure electric car should start within the next three years, The first will be a new model, but existing vehicles will also get electric engines in future as well.

Reilly said Opel would get much more independence when it comes to developing vehicles. The next generation of the Corsa small car, for instance, will be developed in large part in Germany rather than in South Korea, which had been responsible.

He said the entry-level model Agila, now built in cooperation with Suzuki Motor (7269.T), would get a successor even though rival Volkswagen (VOWG.DE) was taking a stake in the Japanese carmaker.

“All existing projects with GM will be continued. I personally believe that there is room for two models in this segment: one that is positioned more practically than the Agila and another that comes from the sporty and lifestyle side and will be our future Mini.”

Opel will bring out a small SUV based on the Corsa in 2012/13, he said, adding the company was looking for a production site and South Korea was a “realistic option”.

The next generation Antara SUV will come by 2014 at the latest, while a replacement for the flagship Insignia will have to wait.

“We first have to conduct our restructuring successfully in addition to polishing our image and making regular profits. This is planned for 2012.”

He said Opel would sell around 160,000 Insignias in Europe this year, 20,000 more than first planned. He estimated the five-door version of the new Astra would generate 180,000 sales next year even though it would not be fully rolled out in Europe until June 2010. (Reporting by Michael Shields)

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