Opel may rely on small, entry level models in Europe rather than moving the brand upmarket, chairman Dan Amman said.

“We’re prepared to respond to where the market wants us to go,” he said, a view echoed by Tina Mueller, Opel’s new marketing head in Europe. She added that the brand lacks focus in the sub-EUR10,000 (US$14,000) segment. The year-old Adam city car costs between EUR12,000 and EUR16,000 ($16,000-$22,000).

A move towards smaller models would represent a shift in strategy at Opel which said - just a year ago - it planned to push up-market leaving the Chevrolet brand as General Motors’ value models in Europe. However, three months ago, GM axed Chevy as a mainstream brand in the region from the end of this year.

Mueller said: “Opel needs to be a democratic brand. Given the recent history of Opel, we need to concentrate on our core segments, which are small, midsize and compact before we enter into luxury.”

Last year, Opel sold 738,411 units in Europe compared with rival Volkswagen’s 2.1m.

GM plans to spend EUR4bn ($5.2bn) over three years on Opel and UK sister brand Vauxhall. The outlay will produce 23 new vehicles and 13 powertrains.

Ammann said the Adam and Mokka small CUV had already helped Opel post a market share gain to 5.61% last year from 5.59% in 2012, the brand’s first lift in 14 years. Opel also cut its losses in Europe to US$800m last year from US$1.9bn in 2012.

Mueller said Opel’s image had also become "dusty and old-fashioned" but progress is being made with poster, internet and television campaigns reminding consumers of its German engineering and portraying cars in a more progressive light.

She added: "Since October of last year, we see the image is catching up significantly, month by month. The brand position is changing, and I believe with this image campaign we can provoke people to look at Opel in a different way."

Mueller said she expects the Opel brand to be back on track in terms of consumer perception by 2016.