12 Feb 2013

How we would turn around Vauxhall

Vauxhall is a company that sells lots of cars, but not enough to satisfy their owners General Motors.  Despite the Corsa being the second highest selling car of 2012 in the UK, and the Astra at number five, the company is losing money and GM are losing patience with them.

Vauxhall has been having something of a resurgence in recent months with some well received new models and improvements to the looks of their cars, but it still lags behind the competition in several areas.  The popular conception is one of a company chasing fleet and finance sales with little appeal to anyone who actually wants a car for more reasons than tax avoidance and economy.  Sure, this ethos should stay at the heart of it's business but it needs to expand on that base (that it's lived on for decades) and make cars and sell them to people who want a Vauxhall partly because it's a Vauxhall.

Brand and name

The name Vauxhall has been in existence for over a hundred years.  In 1903 Vauxhall Iron Works built and sold it's first car.  Aston Martin is a comparative baby.  But what value do we hold in the name Vauxhall?  Very little.  The company has failed to produce iconic motors outside the fantastic Lotus Carlton, VX220 and various other niche models (Astra GTE, Nova GTE etc).  The name is a hindrance rather than an asset.  Decades of humdrum, fleet orientated vehicles with little kudos have watered down the name to represent northing more than run of the mill machinery with little appeal.  A massive rebrand is required.  A kickstart.  The first thing we would do is change the name.  To VX.  The letters sound dynamic and instantly make one think of the premium models in the range.  VX220, VXR8, Insignia VXR.  It doesn't completely throw away the old name, being a distillation of it.  But it's a better, more dynamic name - with impact, modernity and appeal.


Vauxhall's prices are ridiculously high.  And then they cave in and offer huge discounts.  This is a stupid way to do business.  Advertise a sensible price and stick to it.  The Astra GTC 1.4T Sport has a list price of £19,040 but dealers will discount it down to nearly £15,000.  The customer doesn't feel like they've got a good deal when they negotiate a discount, they feel like it should have been lower in the first place.  The whole pricing issue is a sop to the fleet managers who want to think they've got a good deal.  It's silly, old-fashioned and needs to stop.  Dacia make a huge deal out of their pricing.  Vauxhall could too if they slapped sensible prices on their cars and made a fuss about it.  Plus, most customers shop online in the first instance and if, on screen, the Vauxhall doesn't stack up it will be dismissed.

Halo models

Vauxhall try but they fail.  The Insignia XVR, the Astra VXR, the VXR8.  All have niche appeal.  The VXR8 is massively overpriced and the Astra and Insignias don't get widespread coverage partly due to the Vauxhall name, partly because they aren't perceived as a premium brand and partly because the list prices are too high.  The Astra VXR is a massively powerful front wheel drive car that costs £27,000.  Petrolheads talk about Ford's Fiesta and Focus ST models.  They slaver over them and they read the many articles published about them.  The same is not true of the VXRs.  The Insignia VXR Supersport is a fantastic machine that generated publicity when it was first announced and then - nothing.  Vauxhall need to get their VXRs into films, in wider media and in column inches written by motoring journalists.  The company seems not to have a marketing strategy beyond a really cruddy website, their dismal dealers, the odd TV advert and old-fashioned magazine and newspaper ads.

Halo models part 2 - Lotus

The first part of "Halo models" criticised the existing halo models and how Vauxhall go about pricing and marketing them.  The second part is simple.  Vauxhall need to get Lotus to build range toppers for the Adam, Corsa, Astra and Insignia.  They should then call them the Lotus Astra, Lotus Adam etc.  Lotus are in a whole heap of trouble following the Bahar brouhaha.  Their own range is poor and they struggle to sell more than single digit figures each month.  A Lotus Vauxhall deal would revive both brands.  Up to 5000 models per year for each of the cars listed above.  Vauxhall supply the basic architecture, Lotus work their magic on engines, suspension, chassis set-up, brakes and other performance areas.  A Lotus Astra would sell for £30,000.  This arrangement would generate publicity, sales, profit and the brand awareness Vauxhall so badly needs.  And it isn't a new idea - the Lotus Carlton is the single most desirable car from Vauxhall's 110 year history, plus the VX220 - the most recent desirable Vauxhall - was a Lotus Elise under it's angular body.

Models and range

Vauxhall's model range is actually quite good, with potential widespread appeal and a broad spectrum of choice.  They need to improve engines and suspension set up (for which the Adam has been particularly criticised).  The Adam is great in concept but the Insignia fails as a large car primarily due to the reasons given above, and a hideously bland name.  Cavalier was Vauxhall's last decent big car name.  Vectra was awful and Insignia worse.  They need a new name for their big car and they need to do it without spending millions of pounds on brand marketing consultants - a pillock in a roll neck top will come up with a worse name.  Almost anything would be better. The Astra was a fairly ordinary looking car for years but the most recent update by Mark Adams has improved it no end, especially the GTC.  Adams needs to be given freer reign over all new designs.

Go Racing

The only Vauxhall entrants in the BTCC are privateers, and the most successful uses an old Vectra.  Vauxhall needs to re-enter BTCC with the Astra, a decent budget and at least one star driver.  This is safe territory for them.  Every minute they are not in BTCC they are losing brand recognition.  Jason Plato, Matt Neal, Tim Harvey, Yvan Muller, John Cleland, James Thompson have all contested BTCC with Vauxhall and won.  They need to revive that formula. Half-heartedly helping privateers is not the same as splashing the brand all over an Astra GTC.

Social Media

Vauxhall is pretty hopeless at social media.  They don't have much of a presence online and are the worse for it.  They need to work with the bloggers, the journalists, the big sites and the little sites.  They need to organise regular media days, they need to shout about their cars more.  They need to get people talking about their cars and they need to get as many bums in their car's seats as possible so people will say positive things about them.


Vauxhall's dealers have been pretty useless for a long time.  Consistently rated towards the bottom of the pile for customer service, they need a refresh and a tightening up.  Complacency kills customer service and Vauxhall's dealers are complacent.  Don't take our word for it - they ranked equal fourth from bottom in the 2012 JD Power dealer survey.

Change the grille and logo

The old grille was not pretty.  It's still on the Insignia and, unfortunately, will be on the Cascada too.  It's not a premium look and has to go.  The chrome strips need to be consigned to the dustbin and replaced with colour coded items.  The grille on the Adam and Astra Bi-Turbo are good when colour coded and should be replicated on the larger models.  The badge, though, is still on all Vauxhall models and carries with it all the old-fashioned negative connotations we've talked about.  It needs to be smaller, modernised and the Griffin redesigned or removed.


Vauxhall can vastly improve it's image, presence, sales and profits with a few easy to implement measures that won't cost the earth.  It needs to speculate to accumulate.  The above ideas come about from a little bit of observation and thinking.  It's not rocket science.  Maybe Vauxhall does have ideas - and the corporate attitudes of GM hold them back.  But if it does not adapt to the modern age, and push itself above the parapet of mediocrity, Vauxhall will continue to slowly sink further into the abyss of debt it is already in - and GM will pull the plug.  We hope not.

Have we got it right about Vauxhall?  Let us know.