Vauxhall was until recently the UK division of global car giant General Motors (or more precisely a subsidiary of GM's Europe-wide operation Opel) and was traditionally the long-established local #2 behind arch-rival Ford. Despite repeated attempts to move further upmarket with more stylish models, Vauxhall remained stuck with an image as the archetypal company car (and indeed fleet sales had accounted for a large proportion of volumes). Its local manufacturing operations have steadily dwindled, with the majority of vehicles now imported from mainland Europe, although Vauxhall still produces a large number of Astra models in the UK. However, the biggest recent threat to Vauxhall's long-term future was the financial crisis which engulfed parent GM during 2008. A sell-off of Opel and Vauxhall was narrowly avoided, but GM Europe continued to wrestle with losses. In fact, Vauxhall actually became its best-performing subsidiary for several years, and the UK its largest market in Europe by volumes. However, another shift in strategy took a huge toll on performance in 2017, after GM struck a deal to sell both Opel and Vauxhall to PSA of France for €2.2bn. A cutback in fleet sales caused registrations to plunge by more than a fifth to 195,000 passenger cars, demoting Vauxhall to 3rd place in the UK for the first time, behind Volkswagen. The Corsa - previously the UK's #2 model - slipped to #5, just ahead of the Astra. Vauxhall is a key sponsor of UK football, supporting all four home nation associations. Vauxhall also owns its own extensive dealership system under the Network Q banner. Vauxhall Ironworks launched its first motor car in 1903; it is now the UK's oldest surviving automobile brand, originally acquired by General Motors in 1925 and owned by the US group for the next 92 years. Former PSA marketing chief Stephen Norman replaced Rory Harvey as group managing director of Vauxhall at the beginning of 2018.
Capsule checked 15th January 2018
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Adbrands Social Media 24th May 2019: "Jack & The Beanstalk". Vauxhall Motors unveiled its first big pan-European campaign from new dedicated agency Velocity McCann. It's a big and bold idea: famous fairy tales told backwards to highlight the benefits of the Astra's reverse camera, and illustrated with top-notch CG. There are three tales so far; they're all good, but the other two (Cinderella, The Ugly Duckling) don't work quite as well in reverse. All three use different animators; London prodco Coffee & TV did Jack & The Beanstalk. So far these films have mainly been running on social media. However, a TV run is expected later in the year in the UK, and presumably the same concept will be adapted for sister brand Opel across Europe.
Adbrands Social Media 14th Feb 2019: "Less Rah. Get Real". Always nice to see pan-European manufacturers take the time and trouble to make dedicated ads for the UK market, rather than just re-purpose a regional Euro-pudding, with all the driving sequences flipped to get the steering wheel on the correct side of the car for British roads. Will that still be the case post-Brexit? Dedicated Opel/Vauxhall agency McCann Velocity just dropped this rather good spot for the Crosland X SUV, built around one of those everyday truths with which all parents are familiar. To Vauxhall's credit, this has long been one of its strengths, even at previous agencies. Its UK-made ads have always focused very strongly on the family angle. Still doesn't explain just how you're expected to get all that mud off the upholstery though.
Adbrands Weekly Update 3rd Aug 2017: A new auto giant is born. PSA Groupe of France completed the acquisition this week of GM Europe, adding the Opel and Vauxhall brands to its stable alongside Peugeot, Citroen and DS. "We are witnessing the birth of a true European champion today," said PSA CEO Carlos Tavares. "We will assist Opel and Vauxhall’s return to profitability and aim to set new industry benchmarks together. We will unleash the power of these iconic brands and the huge potential of its existing talents. Opel will remain German, Vauxhall will remain British." PSA leapfrogs Renault to become the undisputed #2 in the European car market with around 17% regional share. Volkswagen still leads the pack with over 23% of new registrations, while Renault has 10.5%.
Adbrands Weekly Update 6th Jul 2017: Ads of the Week: "Pyjama Mamas". Talk about a change of marketing style! Here's Mother London's debut for Vauxhall, and it couldn't be more different from the sort of slightly dull advertising for which that car brand is known. Or indeed from the Euro-pudding campaigns produced across the channel for its continental alter ego Opel. We imagine a large swathe of Britain's womanhood will be instantly converted to the PyjamaMama cause.
Adbrands Weekly Update 9th Mar 2017: It's a deal. In an end of an era moment, GM has agreed to sell its European automobile division, and associated financial services operations, to PSA Group of France, makers of Peugeot and Citroen. Rumours of negotiations first surfaced two weeks ago. PSA is paying a rock-bottom €1.3bn for the still-struggling Opel business in continental Europe and somewhat healthier Vauxhall unit in the UK. It's a bargain price for a business that generated sales of almost $19bn last year. Better still for PSA, only half of that sum is being paid now in cash, with the rest in warrants to acquire around 4.2% of PSA's equity in five years' time. PSA is teaming up with French bank BNP Paribas to acquire the finance business for an additional €900m in cash. The price is a measure of GM's eagerness to offload its European division, which has racked up losses of over $15bn in the past two decades. In addition, GM will take a charge of as much as $4.5bn to cover impairments and some of its European pension obligations. That's thought to include a €3bn payment to PSA to cover some of the shortfall in Opel's pension fund. On a net basis, therefore, GM is effectively paying PSA around €800m to take Opel off its hands. The sale will bring to an end GM's turbulent 90-year involvement in the world's third biggest car market, while also elevating PSA into the #2 spot in the region behind Volkswagen. The question is whether PSA, itself only now just around the corner after years of difficulties of its own, can make the deal work. It has promised to preserve Opel/Vauxhall's manufacturing commitments across Europe for five years, but at some point the axe might need to fall to improve profitability. PSA CEO Carlos Tavares also plans to make use of spare capacity at Opel's plants to boost exports beyond Europe, primarily into Latin America, North Africa and parts of Asia.
Adbrands Weekly Update 30th Sept 2015: Tim Tozer, chairman of GM's UK subsidiary Vauxhall Motors stepped down unexpectedly, apparently as a result of disagreements with senior managers at GM Europe over sales targets. He was replaced by Rory Harvey, executive sales director for Opel Europe.
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