Why Vauxhall should be more about RAKe than Adam

Published: 10 May 2012

Vauxhall has called its new city car Adam. Pause for cynicism. On the face of it, this is plain silly, a clumsy lurch towards cutesy personalisation in the face of wave after wave of the meaninglessly generic names/numbers favoured by pretty much everybody else. Is Meriva, for example, more or less silly than Adam? Is Focus? Is Golf? How about Enzo – isn’t that simply a man’s name; the same principle as Adam?

What I would suggest to Vauxhall, however, is that the biggest problem with Adam is not its name but its lack of ambition. Earlier this year we reported on a radical urban mobility vehicle called RAKe – a lightweight, tandem-seat electric buggy weighing just 380kg, capable of 75mph and with a range of 60 miles on one charge. The maker’s name? Vauxhall (and Opel/GM, naturally).

One of an increasing number of electric-powered ‘personal mobility’ concepts (notable other examples include VW’s Nils concept and Audi’s Urban Concept), RAKe potentially represents a seismic shift in thinking, in that it will be priced to attract teenagers. ‘We want to develop electric vehicles that everyone can afford,’ said Vauxhall/Opel’s Karl-Friedrich Stracke. ‘We aim to deliver pricing that even young people – even teenagers – can afford.’

This is significant because young people are no longer turned on by cars. Too expensive, too much to insure, too dangerous, too politically incorrect and – crucially – no longer the gateway to freedom (that last privilege now falls to computer, mobile phone, iPad, the social networks). If car makers are to survive, they need to re-establish that link with youth.

‘RAKe is packaged to appeal to a young and technology-savvy audience to whom the cool looks of an electric vehicle are as important as its energy consumption,’ said Stracke. It’s the first time I’ve heard a car boss sounding like someone from Apple. Stracke sounds as if he’s cottoned on to the fact that iPod, iPhone, iPad, iBook are not in themselves substantively better than rivals, but are perfectly positioned, superbly marketed and thus exponentially cooler.

Adam is none of these things. But RAKe is all of them.



By Greg Fountain

CAR's former managing editor, editor, caption chiseller, noticer of ironies