The line starts just beyond the entrance of the M118. At the Fahrzeugzentrum für Mitarbeiter in Rüsselsheim, dozens of people are patiently standing in line just after 10 a.m. Andreas and Margita Gödickemeier are among them; they are waiting for a sales assistant. Their eldest son is an engineer at Opel. “He makes sure that our family always has enough cars,” says the father with a grin. “The two of us, our daughter, and her grandfather all drive Opel – and soon, our younger son will, too.” The special conditions offered as part of the sale to employees campaign on this particular Saturday are coming at just the right time for the Gödickemeiers. They have their eye on a one-year-old ADAM Slam – fire-engine red, fully equipped, 100 horsepower. While their sons go over the sporty little car with a fine-tooth comb outside, the parents are already in line to buy. Now here’s a family who knows how to divide their chores equally.
Outside, the sun is still hiding away behind the clouds, but that’s not stopping visitors from flocking to the spring festival. Today, the attractive purchasing conditions for used cars that employees usually enjoy are also available to employees’ friends and acquaintances. Generous gas and service coupons also come with the purchase of any new or used car. The current range of models is drawing all the attention; the yellow and black tent where visitors can sign up for test drives is completely swamped. Seventy Opel consultants are signing people up and explaining what makes the vehicles special.
PULL IN, NEW DRIVER, PULL OUT
Signing up for a test drive is easy. Anyone interested simply provides his or her name and contact data, signs a liability agreement, and then receives a coupon, which they can take to the large parking lot out back. After a few minutes, they can hop into an ADAM, Astra, Cascada, Corsa, Insignia, Mokka, or other model and head out on a 20-minute test drive. The various vehicles are lined up like a string of pearls as they pull into the parking lot – and back out again. In about as much time as it takes to complete a pit stop in Formula 1, the next test driver is sitting behind the wheel.
Markus Grandjean conducts his test drive a bit like a race car driver – without breaking the law, of course. The young man is working on a dual degree in systems engineering, dividing his time between his university studies and working at the ITEZ. He and his wife Sophia have just picked up the keys to a black Astra OPC. Their chosen route begins with the highway on-ramp. Grandjean lets the engine’s 280 horsepower loose. In just a few seconds, the speedometer reads 140 kph. “Drives pretty well,” says Grandjean: a tactful understatement as the roar of the exhaust system subsides to a gentle purr. “Sounds like a jet,” his wife says approvingly. She accepts the race car pace with stoic resolve. “I’m used to it; it happens a lot,” she says with a grin. “But I know that my husband’s a good driver.”
Her spouse doesn’t even try to hide his excitement over the car’s performance. “Wow, I’ve never driven a front-wheel drive vehicle that handles in corners so well,” he comments as he turns the OPC along the exit ramp. “I was already impressed with the chassis on the GTC. But this is just awesome!” So will we see an Astra OPC parked in front of Grandjean’s house soon? “Maybe,” he says back at the M118. “Once I’m finished with my degree in a year, it’s definitely on the short list.” And to his wife, he adds, “You can also drive it like a normal car!”
A SPEEDSTER AND OLIVE OIL IN TOW
Mario Forte is also passionate about a two-liter engine that packs a punch. The Opel employee with Italian roots is in his 38th year of working in the window and windshield plant. Forte’s automotive dream has already come true: an Opel Speedster. He always carries a picture of the red sports car with him in his wallet. “Well, you see, grandpa’s caught the car bug. He’s a little crazy,” Forte explains to his grandson Aleandro with a hearty laugh. The five-year-old is accompanying his grandfather for the day. Someone has to keep an eye on him, after all. Forte takes a leisurely approach to his test drive in a white Mokka, cheerfully chatting as he drives.
In addition to the Speedster, he also has a Corsa, a Meriva, and a Vivaro at home, as well as a large trailer. “That’s what I use to take the Speedster to Italy,” he explains. When he takes vacations to his native land, the sports car is his constant companion. “For the first few meters, we can even keep up with the Ferraris.” The Mokka, says Forte, is a great car, but it’s just not for him. “I need more space so I can bring back lots of the olive oil that my family produces in Italy.” Gasoline in his veins and olive oil in his trunk – Aleandro’s grandpa is a pretty interesting character. In the meantime, Aleandro himself has stopped in front of a black Astra OPC, lovestruck. Looks like the car bug has infected the next generation.
Around lunchtime, the tents and food stands are swamped. No one likes to buy a car on an empty stomach. Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Michael Lohscheller helps pass out Thuringian-style bratwurst. Just a few feet away, Chairman of the Board Karl-Thomas Neumann chats with colleagues and visitors. Many of his fellow board members are following suit. It has been busy at the raffle booth all day. The grand prize is first-rate: two tickets to the Champions League quarter-final match on Tuesday between Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid. The participants’ raffle tickets pile up in the Plexiglas tube.
By the time the event ends that afternoon, 6,000 visitors have been tallied, 1,400 test drives taken, and 100 new and 100 used cars sold. Many of the windshields of the used cars now boast ‘SOLD’ signs – including the fire-engine red ADAM Slam, which now belongs to the Gödickemeier family. “Now our whole family drives Opel!” Andreas Gödickemeier calls back to us as a farewell. Standing in line at this year’s spring festival certainly paid off.