Opel aims for flat car sales in softer 2013 market

General Motors brand Opel aims to match last year's sales level of more than 1 million vehicles in Europe in 2013 thanks to the launch of the new Adam subcompact and Cascada cabriolet models.

"Of course it depends to a degree on the industry," said Opel sales chief Duncan Aldred on the sidelines of a media event in Geneva on Monday, adding the overall car market in Europe could decline by as much as ten percent over 2012.

"What I definitely do expect is to grow our market share," he continued.

Opel and its UK sister Vauxhall forecast a boost in particular from its last two model launches, the Mokka subcompact SUV and the Adam.

Orders for the Mokka have nearly hit 90,000 cars, right at the limit of its full-year production capacity. Orders for the Adam reached about 30,000 so far and the model is only now about to hit dealer showrooms in the UK.

All major euro zone car markets were running below expectations, but the Opel sales chief said that the company's business already built a cushion into its forecast, even if this had nearly melted away in the months since it was first drafted in August.

"We had more optimism that it would come in above our budget, but unfortunately it's coming down right in line with it," said Aldred.

"So it's working from the basis of 'plan for the worst, hope for the best,' but I was hoping there was more strength than there appears to be," he continued.

Italy in particular was "shocking" after the already bombed out market shrank a further 20 percent in February year-on-year.

Aldred said the resignation of Pope Benedict as the head of the Catholic Church helped further depress demand last month.

"It just creates more uncertainty in the marketplace. The timing didn't help really," Aldred said.

"Not only have you got political elections, but the Pope resigns for the first time in 600 years, so it doesn't do much to inspire confidence in the whole country."

(Reporting By Christiaan Hetzner)