Opel chief says imports will gain equal footing

The differences between domestic and imported brands will become indistinguishable, and the successful companies will be those that pay attention to the customer, according to the representative general director of Opel Japan.David Dunahay predicts that intensifying competition and rapidly changing needs in the Japanese market will force some automakers, regardless of whether they are domestic or foreign, to either leave or be absorbed in four or five years if they fail to corner future tastes. The key to survival is “the combination of bringing to Japan the product that the Japanese people want and giving the Japanese the service that they want,” Dunahay said.Appointed head of Opel in November, Dunahay said brand identity — what that brand stands for — will become even more important as less focus is placed on which company is producing it and where. Although Opel Japan is a division of General Motors Japan, he said most Japanese people regard it as an independent brand backed by strong German engineering and a high awareness for safety and environmental protection. “I think that our brand is developing the way we wanted it to in Japan, where we are trying to position Opel as a German brand targeted more toward younger customers,” Dunahay said.He said Opel is fortunate because its product lineup — small passenger cars and station wagons which use interior space effectively — meets the Japanese market’s needs. He predicted that this trend will continue in the medium term, but he stressed that this does not mean Opel will stop trying to keep ahead of its customers’ changing needs and take them into consideration in the early stages of product development.Opel, a major brand in Europe, was one of the first foreign automakers to introduce “borderless pricing,” which prices goods almost identically in Japan as in the home country. The move, helped by the yen’s sharp appreciation in the last few years, greatly changed the image that imported cars are expensive, luxurious and far from the reach of the general public, Dunahay said.