This Autocar image shows how Vauxhall's flagship SUV might look
Vauxhall will launch a range-topping SUV before the end of the decade, with the new model combining dramatic coupé-like looks and seven seats with what insiders have described as a “value-for-money price tag”.
The new SUV will be joined by two new crossover models, which will slot between the new Astra and a revamped Insignia, with the result that by 2019 Vauxhall will have four SUV and crossover models in its line-up, including the existing Mokka.
Industry specialists say the boom in crossover and SUV sales is not likely to slow significantly over the next four years. Moreover, Vauxhall’s three MPV models — the Meriva, Zafira and Zafira Tourer — have all suffered sales slides as family-friendly crossovers and SUVs displace the traditional people-carrier.
The flagship SUV was announced in outline form late last year by GM CEO Mary Barra. She revealed that £189 million was being invested in Opel’s Russelsheim factory to update it for the next-generation Insignia and the new SUV. However, Autocar has now obtained more details about the new vehicle and its market positioning.
The large SUV will be based on an updated version of the Insignia’s Epsilon 2 platform, which also underpins Cadillac, Chevrolet and Buick models.
This new platform is being developed under the name ‘E2XX’. According to announcements from GM in the US, the new structure will get a significant 10cm wheelbase stretch (taking it up to a substantial 2.83m), with the whole structure being a substantial 136kg lighter than Epsilon 2 architecture.
Other changes are expected to be made that allow a more radical interior dashboard design to be use, while at the rear, the rear of the floorpan and structure have been further modified to improve luggage space and accommodate a third row of seats in the SUV.
GM sources also say the new structure is being engineered to further improve “real-world” ride and handling.
Work is now well under way on the styling of the new SUV, under design boss Mark Adams. Sources promise a look that will be “dramatic” and much more coupé-like than today’s rival models from Hyundai and Kia.
One company source said Adams’s team was hoping to strike the same sort of balance between usability and dramatic style as that achieved by the Range Rover Evoque. The dashboard design is also expected to be a significant step forward, featuring a large central screen and a reduction in the number of manual controls.
All-wheel drive will be an option, but there’s no news on what the engine range might be. GM Europe has announced significant investment in its engine and transmission plants, so expect a range of new petrol and diesel engines above the 1.4 and 1.6-litre units launched in the new Astra.
Manufacturing the new SUV and the new Insignia on the same production line will also improve the economies of scale involved in making these large cars in Germany. By 2020, the production line could be building nearly 200,000 units a year - a figure that is double today’s numbers.
Well before the big SUV arrives, Vauxhall-Opel will have two new compact crossover models, which will be key to improving sales in Europe.
Both models are being co-developed with PSA Peugeot Citroën on shared platforms. The smaller crossover will replace the Meriva and is expected to go on sale next year.
The Meriva has been something of a success for GM Europe, with sales of original model peaking at 203,000 in 2004 and the Mk2 at 127,000 in 2011. Since then, however, sales have collapsed, slumping to 57,000 last year. Replacing the existing conventional MPV-style model with a crossover is likely to result in a significant sales boost.
The larger crossover model will in effect replace the ancient Antara and the recently axed Zafira MPV, although the bigger and plusher Zafira Tourer will live on. The new medium crossover, which is expected to be the sister car to the new Peugeot 3008, will arrive in 2017.
Vauxhall's four-model plan
2016 Vauxhall Compact crossover - This model, which is being co-developed with PSA, is expected to share a platform with the replacement for the Peugeot 2008. Vauxhall’s version will replace the Meriva baby MPV and be built at the GM factory in Zaragoza, Spain.
2017 Vauxhall Medium crossover - This other co-production with PSA will in effect replace the Zafira seven-seat MPV and the old Antara SUV. PSA’s version will be the new Peugeot 3008.
2017 All-new Vauxhall Insignia - Based on the new E2XX platform, the Insignia will get a significant wheelbase stretch in order to greatly improve rear cabin space and access. Styling is said to be coupé-like, despite the size of the car. The interior will also take a step into the future with extensive use of TFT screens.
2019 Flagship SUV - The big SUV will offer three rows of seats and what is claimed to be the same kind of stand-out styling as the Range Rover Evoque.
Comment - Will the strategy work?
Over the past two decades or so, Vauxhall-Opel’s share of the European car market has halved. In the first half of the 1990s the share was just short of 13%, with sales of 1.5 million vehicles.
Last year total sales hit just 881,000 units, which is significantly less than the 1m vehicles sold in 2010 during the aftermath of the credit crunch. Like other mid-market players, Vauxhall-Opel has been hit both by the rise of brands such as Skoda, Hyundai and Kia and the seemingly endless expansion of the premium brands.
This new strategy for the second half of the decade is clever. Riding the crossover wave is common sense, if a tad slow off the mark. But at the top end, Vauxhall sees an opportunity to step in where the premium makers are failing. It’s not just the showroom price of a premium car that’s high, but also the costs involved in servicing and repairs as the car gets older.
Offering super-slick styling, more radical interiors, no-excuse modern powertrains and “value for money prices and sensible aftermarket costs” could, say planners, open up a useful market niche for the company.
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