The star is wearing red. Of course. It is September 15, 2015, 9 o’clock sharp. The new Astra glides around the corner, up the ramp and onto the big IAA stage. Behind the wheel of the newest compact-class generation: Karl-Thomas Neumann. And the Opel CEO gets right to the point: “Our new Astra is the best Opel we’ve ever built,” he says, welcoming the 500 journalists from all around the world.
In a flurry of flashbulbs reflected on the shiny black floor and mirrored ceiling, GM CEO Mary Barra comes on stage to unveil a second world premiere with the Opel Group CEO – the Astra Sports Tourer. Mary Barra announces that the product offensive will be accelerated: “Between 2016 and 2020 we will introduce a total of 29 new Opel/Vauxhall cars to the market – including an electric vehicle and a second flagship next to the Insignia.” Crowds of photographers gather around the GM and Opel CEOs, television cameras are set up for interviews with them, the premiere models are pored over.
Time to explore the 3,300 m2 Astra Galaxy:
“I experienced an Opel CEO who is as
authentic as his tweets.”
– Tobias Uffmann –
Karl-Thomas Neumann Twitter follower
THE TWEETING GUEST OF HONOR
Smiling, Tobias Uffmann comes from the stage. How did it come about that he was sitting next to Karl-Thomas Neumann when he drove into the Astra Galaxy for the press conference? “Quite simply: the Opel CEO tweeted that whoever wants to go to the IAA with him should let him know as quickly as possible – and I did.” The 36 year-old is one of the Opel CEO’s 10,000 Twitter followers. “I experienced an Opel CEO who is as authentic as his tweets,” says Uffmann, who is not an Opel driver. He works in the communications industry and tracks trends and developments via Twitter. “I find it really interesting to follow Opel’s comeback.” He mastered his appearance on the big stage with ease. “This was an unforgettable experience – it was fantastic that I was able to be here.”
THE 100 PERCENT MAN
Everyone knows it, everyone fears it: the infamous “everything went smoothly until someone was watching”, a kind of Murphy’s Law. This was on Heiko Rettig’s radar, but because he and his colleagues from Quality Assurance did their job so well, he was relaxed. “The cars we exhibit at these kinds of shows have been checked by us not 100 percent, but 110 percent,” says the QA expert. If there are problems, he and his colleagues react immediately. “Scratches, bumps, flat tires – we can take care of everything.” Some functions are purposely deactivated – like the horn, sunroof and power windows, and the gas cap is also locked. “So that no one is injured or does something foolish.”
And before Karl-Thomas Neumann demonstrated live how the new Opel’s LED matrix light can be turned on and off with his Apple Watch at the Astra world premiere, the QA experts of course once again tested this function. So that “everything went smoothly until someone was watching” didn’t have a chance.
“The cars we exhibit at these kinds of shows have been checked by us not 100 percent, but 110 percent.”
– Heiko Rettig –
Opel Quality Assurance
“IAA visitors’ interest in the new OnStar assistant is huge.”
– Christian Bergmann –
THE EUROPEAN ONSTAR TRAVELER
Look: the brightest star in the Astra Galaxy shines next to the stage! In “Light Car”, Christian Bergmann explains Opel OnStar, the personal connectivity and service assistant introduced in the new Astra, to IAA visitors. “People’s interest is huge,” says the host. “Especially for Destination Download and Emergency Call Service, they want detailed information.” Christian Bergmann intensively prepared to be able to explain the system clearly and in detail. “In February and March I drove across Europe with OnStar and ran through various emergency situations with the colleagues in the OnStar headquarters in Luton.” Not only does he know what he’s talking about, he can also do it in several languages.
↑ A clip of the Astra-Universe
THE ENGINE WHISPERER
Most of their lives are spent hidden under the hood, but at this show they can also shine in the first row: the powertrains. And how they shine. As perfectly presented as the new all-aluminum engine – named 1.4 ECOTEC Direct Injection Turbo – is, you could put it in your living room. Powertrain Chief Engineer Matthias Alt is pleased that so many interested visitors have questions: “Actually, I thought that the new Astra’s wellness seats and matrix light would steal the show.” But the three gasoline engines are getting lots of attention. “Of course when representatives from other manufacturers come by then it gets very technical, like for instance how we further reduced frictional resistance.”
“I’m a bit surprised about how interested the visitors are in our new engines. Of course I’m really happy about this.”
– Matthias Alt –
Powertrain Chief Engineer
GREETINGS FROM THE GALAXY
Ah, right next to the Vivaro Surf Concept there is a black box. It must have information on the lifestyle van. Take a quick look at its built-in screen and … oops, it “clicks”. It’s a photo box, and you can send greetings from it at the Opel booth via email.
THEY KNOW IT ALL
Stand around and look good? Only the new Astra, Vivaro Surf Concept and co. are allowed to do that. The 70 hosts and hostesses have to do a lot more and be able to explain everything to visitors. How does the new matrix LED light work? And the wellness seat? And the IntelliLink infotainment system?
“There are so many features – every one of us knows everything about one or two cars,” says Robin Stauche, who together with Leonie Roth is the Vivaro Surf Concept specialist. “We learned about all the details during a few days in Rüsselsheim,” says the host. Okay, let’s hear it! After 15 minutes of non-stop information and a round of internet surfing via the Wi-Fi Hotspot it’s clear: the Surf Concept is loads of fun – and the Opel hosts really know all about it.
THE DESIGNER WITH INTERIOR MOTIVES
He opens the door, gets in and the smile never leaves Director of Interior Design Karim Giordimaina’s face. “The new Astra impressively shows what we mean when we say that we want to merge German engineering with sculptural design.” As an interior specialist, he of course has to explain the car to visitors from the inside out, and naturally “it’s always about the problem-free connectivity with various smartphones that the new Astra offers”. But the designer also knows everything about the car’s storage spaces. “If someone wants to know where they can put their sunglasses – no problem, I’ll show them.”
“Our presentation is very professional, and also entertaining.”
– Karim Giordimaina –
Director Interior Design
“There has never been so much luxury
in the compact class.”
– Andrew Leuchtmann –
Senior Manager GME Interiors
THE OPEL SEAT KING
It is the largest part in a car interior and sometimes also the most expensive. According to Andrew Leuchtmann, it is also the most sophisticated: the seat landscape. The award-winning wellness seat in the new Astra certainly is. “It securely holds the driver in place and is back-friendly. It also cools, warms and massages,” says the Senior Manager GME Interiors, listing some of its features. “There has never been so much luxury in the compact class.” The Opel engineer’s work has been dedicated to the seats for 23 years, and he has been passionately working on their further development for 12 years. A team of over 100 experts has been working on the completely newly designed seat landscape for the Astra for almost five years. “Latest high-tech materials make the seat structure not only safer and more stable, but also lighter,” says Leuchtmann. The new seat is 10 kilograms lighter.
THE CAPTAIN OF THE GALAXY
Slim, tall and smiling, the “Captain of the Astra Galaxy” hurries over the shiny black floor. On most of the show days, Michael Süßenberger and his team from German marketing are in charge of the booth. They coordinate everything, set the hostesses’ shift plans, keep an eye on the availability of cars, organize the planning of booth re-arrangement after the press days, and supervise the catering for the huge team working behind the scenes. The most important task? “That everyone here at the Opel booth feels good and is comfortable,” says Süßenberger. This goes as much for the hostesses as for Chancellor Angela Merkel, who didn’t miss the opportunity to personally take a close look at the new Astra.
“We from Opel at the show booth are also here on behalf of the thousands of colleagues who made these great products possible.”
– Michael Süßenberger –
Opel booth Manager
THE STAR‘S COMPANIONS
A quick look at the clock: six hours have passed since the press conference. Darn, it’s time to go back to the editorial office. But there is still so much to see: the colleagues who present the private sharing app CarUnity, the Astra Experience app, the Opel Selfie Jump and, and, and. More on that next Monday (September 28) here in the Opel Post. But before leaving today, we make a quick detour to the models on the main stage. Macha, Sylwia and – very cool, a man – Vincent. Sylwia has already worked for Opel many times. “The atmosphere is always great. Everyone is so nice,” says Sylwia. That’s no surprise. An especially friendly species awaits you in the Astra Galaxy – come by!