Vauxhall must rebuild momentum around its hugely significant new Corsa, having been hit hard by lockdown occurring at the time of the supermini’s launch, according to its boss.
In a recent Autocar Business Live online seminar, Stephen Norman said: “Unfortunately, the lockdown came bang in the middle of the Corsa launch. We were in the midst of launching petrol and diesel versions and, to be frank, the lockdown has suspended our ambition for the brand because of that for at least six months. The lockdown may only have been two or three months, but it has certainly made a dent in the run rate we intended to build up to.”
However, Norman remains positive about Vauxhall, saying it “has a job to do in marketing terms to build [Corsa] demand back up to where it was before lockdown”, and adding that the recently revealed new Mokka SUV would also help its cause. “There’s nothing like a new product to restate your case.”
The state of sales
It’s estimated that about 500,000 cars have been taken out of the market this year, due to Covid-19. Given Vauxhall’s intended 7.5% market share, Norman believes the pandemic has cost the firm 37,500 sales. “That’s the big hit,” he said.
September sales are in line with last year for Vauxhall, so Norman believes it’s the final quarter of the year that will give the best prediction for 2021. “In June, straight after lockdown, we were able to deliver dealer stock that had been primarily ordered before and during lockdown,” he said. “In July and August, we saw very strong demand from customers who were unable to place orders during lockdown and undoubtedly encouraged by government guidelines to use personal transport rather than public transport. In September, we were even-stevens.”
Unemployment in all sectors at the end of the furlough scheme and the impact that could have on vehicle demand is “one of the uncertainties we’ll have to face in Q4 and Q1 of next year,” Norman added.
Ellesmere Port’s future
Despite the massive hit that UK car production has been dealt by the pandemic (it was down 44% year on year in August), Norman categorically stated that the future of Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port factory will be decided by other factors.
“The Ellesmere Port situation isn’t a Covid situation but a situation that has everything to do with the cost of manufacture and the tariff situation which will be ours after 31 December,” he said.