DETROIT — Why does Carlos Tavares think he can do what General Motors' best minds failed to do with Opel and turn around a perennially and precariously unprofitable European car company?

Because he has done it before.

Tavares, 59, was named CEO of PSA Group in 2013, when it was piling up losses and near death. Within the first three years of what was supposed to be a five-year turnaround plan, he had resuscitated France's second-largest automaker and moved on to a new long-range plan aimed at accelerating its progress. PSA's 7.4 percent operating profit margin in the first half of last year pushed it into the top five among global automakers, Tavares said.

The Opel/Vauxhall operation he acquired last year for $2.6 billion from GM reminds him of what he found in his early months at PSA.

"The numbers I see [from] Opel and the numbers we were seeing from outside demonstrate that the Opel situation is very similar ... as the PSA situation back in 2013," Tavares said during the Automotive News World Congress. "Opel is PSA 2013."

"Turning Opel around is my priority No. 1," he said.

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