Vauxhall Corsa: why it could be Luton’s silver bullet

64298vau-269184In 2013, Vauxhall sold 83,000 Corsa superminis. That was enough to make it the UK’s third best selling car, and Britain the biggest market in the world for the car.

It was also enough for Vauxhall to boast an impressive claim: if the only car it sold were Corsa, it would have still outsold the complete ranges of Citroen, Fiat, Honda, Kia, Renault and Hyundai. “That is how important the Corsa is to Vauxhall,” said a spokesman.

But there’s another fact Vauxhall understandably can’t admit: the current Corsa is old and off the pace. First launched in 2006, it is not a patch on the multi-talented latest-shape Ford Fiesta (of which Ford sold over 120,000 last year), and is also bettered by many other less popular superminis.

The Corsa is, for all its sales strength, arguably Vauxhall’s weakest link.

Which is why a new Corsa, due later this year, is so important to Vauxhall – and is also why its arrival could do more for the company than is first apparent. If Vauxhall can sell 83,000 examples of a mediocre car, just think how many will it be able to see of something much more modern and class competitive?

Could, indeed, the refreshed Corsa join the Fiesta in being a British car that clocks up six-figure registrations in a year rather than five?

New Corsa: Vauxhall’s route to UK #1?

Vauxhall has a plan, formulated by former chairman (and now a senior exec in the hugely profitable GMC-Buick division over at GM HQ) Duncan Aldred: to be number one in retail and true fleet business by 2016. The One Plan, he called it.

If that means number one in the market overall, then all to the good. After all, Vauxhall achieved this a couple of times already last year…

The private car buyer is crucial to Aldred’s plan (Vauxhall won’t, he insists, discount and do unprofitable deals to achieve The One Plan). And what do British car buyers buy more of than any other car? The supermini. Vauxhall needs a strong supermini where, up to now, it has been hindered by a weak one.

The arrival of the new Corsa could potentially help achieve Aldred’s stated goal overnight.

The numbers tell the story: Ford sold 310,000 cars in the UK in 2013. Vauxhall sold 259,000. The difference between the Fiesta and Corsa was 35,000, a huge chunk of that 51,000 difference. With a better Corsa, better availability of the in-demand and supply-constrained Mokka plus a new Vauxhall city car, suddenly the gap doesn’t seem so insurmountable.

Vauxhall’s most important launch in years

A lot depends on how good the new Corsa actually is, of course. We know a ground-up GM global small car platform is a long way off, after yet another rethink in small car strategy by GM (this one was engineered in an alliance with Fiat, now disbanded the new one was to be co-engineered with PSA, a plan now disbanded; the next one will be developed from GM’s own small car platform already used by Chevrolet – a decision so logical, you wonder why they didn’t do this all along…).

How much can the engineers do to improve this one though? Spy shots suggest new front and rear ends, which is logical; there’ll also be a new interior and new engines (including the highly promising three-cylinder 1.0-litre – after all, 40% of Fiestas sold are now 1.0-litre Ecoboosts…).

GM’s decision to equip all but its most basic cars with OnStar 4G connectivity will also give the new Corsa an invaluable tech USP in a sector particularly attractive to younger buyers. A £12k smartphone car for £125 a month will be very appealing to a group of buyers who haven’t formed any particular brand loyalty or opinions.

Can the Corsa do it?

The Corsa is an important car for Vauxhall, even in its current off-the-pace guise. Privately, you’d imagine many within the company will be hoping the newly improved one can give it the push to the number one spot many within the company are hoping for.

What do you reckon? Could Vauxhall’s aspirations be viable after all? Could one of its currently-weakest cars hold the keys to its future market-leading success? Over to you…

Managing Director at @editorial_mr. Runs a bit. Loves the motor industry. https://about.me/richardaucock

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