The year 1976 was actually a good one for Opel. For the first time, the brand with the lightning bolt recorded a market share of more than 20%. In addition, the Rüsselsheimer Wolfsburg had replaced as the market leader. And even against the nemesis VW Golf, it was believed that an effective antidote had been found in the Opel Kadett City.
In fact, it only seemed at first glance that the Opel Blitz was basking in the success. Statistics showed that VW was attracting young buyers to the Golf en masse, and that the City Kadett could only outperform the Golf visually. Because with an engine installed longitudinally instead of transversely and the rear-wheel drive, it had no chance against the compact from the Mittelland Canal.
In order to inspire young buyers, Opel relied on Formula J. A brilliant idea, and unfortunately a cynical game with the safety of the old days.
Opel Kadett City J
Sometimes automakers seem to get everything right. In the case of Opel, the outdated, staid Kadett became an almost modern-looking contribution to the compact class with the city compact model. In order to take the last semblance of fussiness out of the City, the Opel designers resorted to proven methods.
Instead of chrome decoration, the City Kadett J rolled out with black trim parts, which immediately left a sporty and fresher impression. The equipment was enriched and was almost generous in direct comparison to the stingy market competitors from Wolfsburg. In addition, the price was lowered and the advertising was rejuvenated.
In 1976, a year after the launch of the Kadett City, Opel advertised with a young woman with a trendy blow-dried hairdo, who was wearing what marketing felt was a smart T-shirt. Unfortunately, the shirt is not available in the hottest boutiques, but only at Opel dealers. Just like the highly topical blouson. And the car too.
It is not known whether the targeted customers also found the shirt hot. But the target group was addressed clearly and quite mercilessly.
It is also interesting that Opel had to pay extra for the lifestyle image that one suspected behind the Kadett City. The conventional Kadett, with notchback and two doors, is cheaper than the more compact hatchback.
The cynical Opel game with safety
Marketing also played a part in the Opel Kadett City advertising, which was quite cynical. Opel advertised a laminated glass windscreen at no extra cost. By request! What sounded great turned out to be pure cynicism months later. In fact, the laminated glass panes were much more expensive to buy than the conventional glass that Opel normally installed.
As Opel later admitted, the manufacturer relied on the naivety of customers who would not see the advantage. Opel advertises, has good press, but hardly any costs. That was the idea. But the marketing department reckoned without the customers.
The buyers were surprisingly enlightened. They knew that ordinary glass could be sharp and even deadly in the course of an accident. Where safety glass breaks into small pieces, there is a real danger lurking here.
Opel customers ordered the safety glass through the bank at no extra charge, which was previously only available as an option and for a surcharge. There was a big deficit in the Rüsselsheim cost accounting, Opel withdrew the campaign and switched back to the surcharge strategy.
The motoring press got wind of it, and now the brand with the lightning bolt had a reputation for being cynical and petty about customer safety. Because in the 70s, safety glass was increasingly becoming the standard for market competitors, but Opel appeared to be too stingy in public to introduce it in all vehicles.
Striving for profit before security - the damage was enormous, and only a year later the brand had handed over market leadership to Volkswagen.
- Sequel follows -