It’s business as usual, says Vauxhall boss

Published: 08 March 2017 Updated: 08 March 2017

► Upcoming model strategy for Vauxhall
► Slight decline on fleets, more towards retail
► Is there an Opel badge revival on the horizon?

Geneva should have been great news for Vauxhall. It’s the venue for the first public showing of the Insignia Grand Sport, Sports Tourer and Crossland X SUV – but all the buzz is about the PSA takeover of Opel-Vauxhall, and what’s in store for the UK.

Rory Harvey, managing director of Vauxhall was doing his best to avoid wrestling with the elephant in the room, and was unprepared to answer questions directly about the company’s new French master. ‘Vauxhall has a bright future,’ he says. ‘It’s a stalwart of the UK, and will remain so.’

Brexit and the shift away from fleet

Those new cars can’t come a moment too soon. UK sales were down 13% last year, although Rory says that’s not really a reflection of the health of Vauxhall.

‘The net loss is due to a shift in currency following the Brexit vote. It’s been a strategic decision; we’re selling fewer cars to rental fleets, and are doing less Motability,’ he explains. ‘The good news is an uplift in residual values.’

He’s chasing retail customers, too. The previous-generation Vauxhall Insignia sold 98% to business, and this will change. ‘We’re in no doubt, that the new insignia Grand Sport will still sell north of 80% to fleets, but the new Crossland and Grandland X are both very much retail cars, and we expect a very different percentage.’

‘SUVs doing great work for us. The Mokka, Crossland and Grandland X compete in segments that are growing significantly – I’m very excited by this.’

Is Opel the answer?

Harvey is staunchly supportive of Vauxhall as a UK brand.

‘We’ve not looked at the idea of selling our cars as Opels for at least the nine years I’ve been here, and that won’t change.’

Whether UK retail buyers would look more kindly on the German badge has not been considered: ‘Does Vauxhall get a lift by being British? I’m not sure there’s a tangible uplift.’

The last Opel to be sold in the UK was the Manta, which went out of production in 1988.

Finally, the future of Vauxhall is yet to be mapped out, Harvey says, and we won’t even begin to see the beginnings of a PSA-led business plan for at least eight months

Stay tuned.

Click here for more on the Geneva motor show from CAR magazine

By Keith Adams

Devout classic Citroen enthusiast, walking car encyclopedia, and long-time contributor to CAR