Opel/Vauxhall has set itself an ambitious target of becoming profitable this year, despite poor fourth quarter results.

Europe continues to remain a challenging environment for the manufacturer, with the loss contrasting starkly with parent GM posting extremely healthy profit numbers last week.

“People focus on Q4, that we continued to lose money in OpelVauxhall,” said CEO Nick Reilly today (1 March) at the Geneva show. “People’s memories are very short. Just over a year ago, we were going to embark on one of the most difficult restructuring [plans].

“We were predicting [a] loss of around US$3bn and the need for US$4.5bn. We ended up losing US$1.8bn – so a lot better and our funding requirements are a lot lower.”

The Opel chief was bullish about this year’s performance prediction maintaining the manufacturer would return to the black during 2011.

“We will get profitable,” he said, adding: “In fact, I have set an internal target of getting to profit this year, which will be one year ahead of time.”

Reilly outlined a series of product initiatives that would drive Opel/Vauxhall in 2011, highlighting the arrival of the Ampera [Europe’s version of the Chevy Volt] in October or November, whose introduction has already generated 3,000 letters of intent from fleet operators and customers.

“[Around] 850 private customers have put down a deposit and that is even before the car has been seen on the road,” he said. “We are encouraged by that even though it is a relatively expensive car.

The Opel CEO also cited market share increases across Europe – apart from Germany – that had given cause for optimism, while Vauxhall continued to power ahead.

“I was told this morning that Vauxhall was number one in passenger cars in February, which is the second  time in three months,” he said.

But despite wielding the axe over Opel’s Antwerp, Belgium, site at the end of last year, Reilly acknowledged there was still some fat to cut.

“We did close Antwerp and did lose people in the UK, Spain and Germany, but we still have some [cutting] to finish off, which is more reduction in Germany,” he said.