Vauxhall targets serious growth

New ad campaign, fresh models and different sales strategy are part of ambitious plan

Vauxhall is using Britain’s imminent exit from the EU as the backdrop for its boldest marketing campaign in years. The move is part of a bid to boost its UK market share for cars and vans by a third – from 7.5% to double figures – by 2022. Managing director Stephen Norman believes Vauxhall has a unique opportunity to benefit from a possible postelection change in the UK’s social landscape. It has already begun using a challenging new strapline – ‘New Rules, Britannia’ – for a radical, all-media advertising campaign that started last month with the launch of the all-new Corsa.

2022 Vauxhall

2022 Vauxhall Mokka

Building on the successful ‘British brand since 1903’ campaign that he launched soon after his appointment two years ago, Norman intends to position Vauxhall more directly as a maker of cars and vans ‘Built in Britain’ or ‘Made exclusively for Britain’. The move will make Vauxhall one of the country’s biggest spenders on automotive advertising.

To achieve his double-digit goal, Norman admits he needs to more than double Vauxhall’s conquest sales, potentially gaining many new customers – mainly from Ford. The plan depends on four main themes: boosting retail car sales from its current 6.6% market share to double digits; doubling light commercial vehicle sales from its current 10%; making the Corsa-e the top-selling electric car in the UK; and more than halving Vauxhall’s sales to the less profitable daily rental market, which currently accounts for a fifth of volume.

Vauxhall wants to achieve its aims with a vehicle range that Norman describes as “six plus three”: six passenger cars and three vans. Although the current range is smaller than in recent years – the unprofitable Viva and Adam have been dropped – Norman believes the far greater market appeal of the forthcoming models will more than make the difference.

“The new Corsa is a terrific car,” he said, “and when the new Mokka arrives, it will double our small-car appeal. The new Astra, which we’ll start selling in 2021, offers improvements that are almost exponential compared with its predecessor. Our other models will provide important support but these three will be the brand drivers we’ll need to more than double our conquest sales.

“Then, if our existing brand loyalty holds up, which it should, we’ll get to double figures. Of course, then the big job will be to keep it.”

By 2022, Vauxhall will be selling electric versions of the Corsa and new 2021 Mokka (due at the end of 2020) and it will have launched a plug-in hybrid version of the new Astra (mid-2021) to sell alongside the existing Grandland X PHEV.

Vauxhall’s sporting VXR brand will return as e-VXR and be applied to the Corsa, Vivaro and Mokka, giving a clue to these models’ driving characteristics. Although Norman believes the Corsa-e will become Britain’s bestselling electric car, he says Tesla will probably be Britain’s best-selling electric marque. The ‘New Rules’ marketing campaign dates from last September and a fateful conversation about business growth between Norman and PSA Group CEO Carlos Tavares. “He asked me when we expected to achieve a double-digit market share,” Norman said, “and I had to say we hadn’t exactly planned for that. We were looking at less than that. Give me a few weeks, I said, and we’ll have a plan…”

Norman confirmed the Insignia flagship will be replaced, adding that cars of its size still play an important flagship role. Vauxhall-Opel’s new role as part of the big PSA Group – soon to be further enlarged by a merger with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles – may well improve the business case for a model that is its class’s top seller by a significant margin. All-new Mokka is due this year and will have an e-VXR model.

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