Then, rather like a rabbit from a hat, he produces a killer fact on Vauxhall’s all-important pricing power: by starting to refuse deals that “undersell ourselves”, the company has boosted its average transaction prices to within 4% of Volkswagen, everyone’s role model. This, he believes, made an important contribution to the remarkable Opel-Vauxhall financial turnaround announced last month and will help more to help in future. Norman says he will add efficiency and lower costs by gradually shrinking the Vauxhall line-up to three van and six car lines. The vans “choose themselves”, he says, based on size and the fact that the all-important UK-made Vivaro is coming next year. The car offerings will be a new Corsa, new Mokka, Astra, the Crossland and Grandland SUVs, and the Insignia executive saloon.
“It’ll be a slimmer range than many of our competitors,” says Norman, “but it’s what we need to reach our objectives.”
2019 Corsa to get radical overhaul
Serially unsuccessful since 1999, Opel and Vauxhall recently contributed a near-miraculous £445 million profit to PSA’s half-year bottom line. What is more, the brands did it on the extremely healthy operating margin of 5%, respectably close to PSA’s own stellar 8.5%. Norman professes himself “not very surprised” at the achievement, in the sense that there’s more to be done.
Conditions are right, Norman believes, for a turnaround strategy to be effective. Most of the products already look strong. The UK-made Astra continues to win respect as a Golf competitor, even if sales are resolutely unremarkable. The Mokka, Crossland and Grandland SUVs sit in the market segments that appeal to British buyers. The graceful and capable Insignia executive saloon continues to be highly rated in the premium sector. A new Combo Cargo (Berlingo-Kangoo fighter) is due soon, and after that comes the biggest product news of all, an all-new Corsa supermini. And there will be a new PSA-based Vivaro van next year.
The five-point plan, Norman says, runs for the next three years and is designed to capture close to 10% of the UK’s combined car and light van market, estimated at 2.75 million units per year, of which around 350,000 are vans. Vauxhall isn’t claiming it can beat Ford, the market leader, but wants to be “a solid number two, not a vulnerable number two”. “We’re not presenting Britishness as a reason for purchase,” insists Norman. We say the reasons for purchase are things like value, approachability, ingenuity and progressiveness. The Britishness is a differentiator.
“We aim to position ourselves as a reference brand among mainstreamers. Not a prestige brand and certainly not a ‘me-too’ brand. We want to be the UK reference for what we’re good at. We make great cars for modest customers. Some people in this market are ashamed to put it like that. But we’ve never tried to be something we’re not. We’re confidently British.”