Opel has been thrown a lifeline in the form of greater access to the growing Russian car market, with parent company General Motors integrating its Russian operations with its European unit, which is headed by Dr. Karl-Thomas Neumann, who also happens to be CEO of Opel. Currently, the Russian operations are handled by a unit based in Shanghai, China.

General Motors Company [NYSE:GM] claims the move is an important step to strengthen the position of Opel on the Russian market. The switchover will come into effect on January 1, 2014.

Russia is currently Opel’s third biggest market but there’s potential for even greater sales. According to Automotive News (subscription required), vehicle sales in Russia are expected to reach 2.79 million this year and in five years the sales level could top that even of Germany. Last year Germans bought up 3.08 million vehicles.

“This is the right decision at the right time,” Dr. Neumann said in a statement. “Russia is an important part of the European market and for Opel it is the third biggest market in Europe.”

Heading the realigned Russian operations will be Andy Dunstan, who currently oversees sales for GM in central and eastern Europe.

The latest move is another step in Opel’s DRIVE!2022 strategy, which calls for a return to profitability for the Opel brand and the launch of 23 new models and 13 new powertrains over the coming years.


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