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Opinion: Why are people not buying Vauxhalls?

Vauxhall badgeAnother month of falling new car sales, another decline in registrations of Vauxhalls. Only in July 2017, it was an eye-watering decline. In 2017, nearly 42 percent fewer Vauxhalls were registered than during the same month in 2016. 42 percent!

In raw numbers, that’s a fall from 19,733 cars to just 11,528 vehicles. 8205 fewer cars sold. And for a brand that was once Britain’s de facto number two – and, at times during the 1990s, the best-selling car maker in the country – that’s little short of staggering.

More Vauxhall on MR:

PSA’s purchase of Vauxhall/Opel from General Motors is complete
Ford vs. Vauxhall: retro hot hatch showdown
New car sales plummet for fourth month in a row

Last month, Vauxhall market share was not only obviously worse than Ford, but also below Volkswagen, Audi… even Mercedes-Benz! Fair enough with VW beating it, as the dieselgate-struck brand is currently very keen to cycle people into the uber-desirable new Golf… but the UK’s only genuinely British volume brand beaten by not one but two premium brands? Something’s really not right there.

Vauxhall has in the past said that it’s fine with market share declines, as it’s chasing profitable sales, not sales at any cost. That’s all well and good, but there has to be a limit to this, surely? Has to be a point at which throughput of new cars at dealers simply isn’t good enough? And how much profit can you really stretch out of an Astra or Corsa, anyway

The new Astra is a good car, and a British-built one at that. Why it’s not selling is thus strange: it’s received strong press reviews and surely the UK-made element is more relevant than ever in our Brexit-obsessed world. Point the finger at bad marketing, perhaps? Because there’s no excuse for it not appearing on the top 10 best-sellers chart for July, not when the ageing Ford Focus can take the top spot.

Superminis are Britain’s favourite type of new car, and here, Vauxhall is hamstrung because the dreary Corsa is now so aged. It’s so archaic, it’s not even able to capitalise on the Ford Fiesta being in model switchover mode: whereas the Ford still came fourth, the Corsa barely struggled to eighth, just 10 units ahead of the Merc A-Class.

As for the rest of Vauxhall’s range, they were nowhere: no Mokka X or Crossland X despite Britain’s love of SUVs, no Insignia Grand Sport despite the new model being again well received. In the same week that its takeover by PSA was confirmed, with new boss Carlos Tavares vowing to keep both the German Opel and British Vauxhall brands, something needs to happen in the management suite at Luton, and fast. Because such a pitiful monthly sales performance really can’t go on for much longer.

7 replies
  1. DAC
    DAC says:

    I was wondering how the Vauxhall brand is perceived in Britain. In some countries, Opel has a bad brand perception. Even in Germany the brand is lacking in that respect, especially compared to other German brands. In The Netherlands Opel is slowly but surely recapturing some of the its image, although sales are still not wat they used to be 10 to 15 years ago.

    • Richard Aucock
      Richard Aucock says:

      Vauxhall is seen as a mainstream brand currently lacking a USP – perhaps not exactly ‘bad’, but not particularly desirable. Which is a shame, given the brand’s rich heritage. Terrible marketing and ill-judged ad campaigns don’t help… Vauxhall needs a new brand strategy double-quick!

  2. Aiden Gill
    Aiden Gill says:

    The Vauxhall brand is perceived very positively in the UK and known as a trusted brand / manufacturer… mainly as the thought from many is that they’re built in the UK. Obviously that is only the case for the Astra car and Vivaro van.

    However, what this particularly negative, perhaps scaremongering article fails to point out is that the Vauxhall is still the second largest selling car brand in the UK and that other car sales dropped over the above mentioned dates.

    Understandably falling sales are not necessarily a good thing, but it still needs to be compared over the wider industry. I’m sure things will pick up and were only looking over a very short period in the grand scheme of things here. I’m confident the Vauxhall brand is here to stay. Maybe a bigger focus on the British built Astra and Vivaro range should be a focus in future marketing.

  3. Murgatroyd
    Murgatroyd says:

    ‘uber-desirable new Golf’
    Is another warmed-over Golf really that remarkable or have you fallen for the brainwashing marketing? I have owned both a Polo and a Golf and there was nothing special about either bar the repair bills.

  4. Jeff Brooke
    Jeff Brooke says:

    Once you break it down into the basics – that virtually no new cars have claring reliability issues, they all drive acceptably well, come with all the mod-cons, etc… well it becomes very very simple as to why Vauxhall have fallen on hard times: image.

    People haven’t stopped buying Vauxhall because they break down, or are expensive, or are lacking something, they just dont want to be seen in something perceived as a value item.

    Back in the 90’s Vauxhall and Ford reigned supreme because they were affordable. They offered many th Bugs the higher end card offered at an affordable price. Today more than pretty much any time since the 30’s in Britain cars are status symbols and people want the image more than the car.

    Most German cars come with a hard, uncomfortable ride and expensive repair bills, but they sell by the container ship because it says ‘I can afford this’.

    Similarly SUV’s are becoming the most popular car, and even American pick up trucks have got an inroad. These are huge, impractical petrol guzzlers in a country with insanely high fuel prices and twisty narrow lanes, difficult parking and back streets blocked by parked cars down to one lane. Again, it’s because of image.

    Sadly whilst ford have done a pretty good job of updating the styling and options on their range to keep them from losing too much street cred, GM have just been hemmoraging cool since the Vectra. They make ugly plastic card with a cheap badge and never import any thing interesting any of their marques make under the vauxhall badge.

    In an era where all that really matters is your brand image and price point, they’re failing on both counts.

  5. Michael Humble
    Michael Humble says:

    Why are people not buying Vauxhall’s?

    Yet another slightly harsh kick in the nuts for our one remaining British brand of car.

    To get a good picture you need to understand matters from the other side of the showroom sales desk. The press and the TV companies have taken great delight in kicking Vauxhall, each time this happens another potential conquest customer looks elsewhere. The colossal negativity and defeatist attitudes of people over the PSA take over once again causes a niggle of doubt in the customers mind… again they look elsewhere.

    I witnessed this in my days of selling MG Rover. Once the press had caught wind that all was not right in the Midlands, the footfall into the showroom virtually stopped and incoming phone enquiries turned into people cancelling their awaiting orders.

    The SUV market is where Vauxhall have been “Johnny come lately” and vehicles like the Crossland and Grandland X lack the flair of their French platforms and established rivals like Juke and Qashqai are simply better options and are industry standards.

    So why are they not selling? Well they would if people got behind the brand and the media didn’t pick and poke at every bad news story about Vauxhall. Considering they have been criminally ignored and underinvested from General Motors in recent years, I think they have done bloody well considering.

    Not everyone’s cup of tea as a brand and the badge is having a similar identity crisis as Rover did but they will get there with a cash rich parent behind them. I see the PSA taker over as a rebirth… let’s look at the cold hard fact that they (PSA) cannot do worse as a parent than GM did.


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