Currently reading: Vauxhall boss: coronavirus will change car buying for good
Stephen Norman says the lockdown has prompted a surge in demand for Vauxhall's new phone-based sales system

Vauxhall boss Stephen Norman believes the UK’s virus lockdown is encouraging car buyers to embrace a new phone-based direct sales system his company is rushing to put in place — and is confident it will remain effective long after business returns to normal.

Norman is so passionate about the new project that he is currently spending two hours a day personally answering phone calls from potential new Vauxhall customers. The company currently has roughly 12,000 cars in the pipeline between production line and dealer, a figure he says is “unusually low”.    

“Even when we’re clear of the epidemic, I believe retailing will never go back to the way it was,” says Norman. “I expect car buyers to keep doing what we’re encouraging them to do now — phone the company, get a response from a human being who can guide them through the process, then carry on their business through the retail network in the usual way.”

Norman believes this new trend won’t make dealers irrelevant, but is likely to threaten the cost base of what he terms “gin palace: dealerships, which he reckons are “already on overtime”. He says the eventual return to normal social values put extra focus to what he claims is a recent, society-wide overconsumption of premium products and values.

“Before the epidemic this trend had already arrived in the food and clothing industries,” he says. "I think it’s coming to the car industry.”

For this reason Norman forecasts increasing relevance for his bold Great Brit Plan, the recently launched Vauxhall advertising and marketing campaign featuring the post-Brexit slogan “New Rules Britannia” that was just beginning to benefit Vauxhall sales, especially in light commercials, when the epidemic hit.

“Our plan could prove even more relevant than before,” says Norman. “I certainly expect it still to be working through next year. One thing is especially important: we have to be very careful not to take the fun out of car purchase. It’d be a disaster if we let it become boring.”

Read more         

2020 Vauxhall Astra review

Vauxhall launches new strategy aimed at promoting its 'Britishness'​

Vauxhall Corsa 2020 long-term review

Steve Cropley

Steve Cropley Autocar
Title: Editor-in-chief

Steve Cropley is the oldest of Autocar’s editorial team, or the most experienced if you want to be polite about it. He joined over 30 years ago, and has driven many cars and interviewed many people in half a century in the business. 

Cropley, who regards himself as the magazine’s “long stop”, has seen many changes since Autocar was a print-only affair, but claims that in such a fast moving environment he has little appetite for looking back. 

He has been surprised and delighted by the generous reception afforded the My Week In Cars podcast he makes with long suffering colleague Matt Prior, and calls it the most enjoyable part of his working week.

Join the debate

Add a comment…
Gojohnygo 9 April 2020


How do you get a job as a CEO of a major company, with comments like this the application process must be easy. Car buying may change due to Covid 19 but many customers still enjoy the process of walking into a car showroom and hopefully enjoy great customer service leading to the possible purchase of a new car. Car manufactures will use many outlets to allow future customers choices, but to openly say that Vauxhall franchises are a thing of the past is very poor.

Deputy 9 April 2020


... we can get rid of these pointless dealerships.  The last 2 new cars I bought from a dealer both had complications caused by the dealer (not the manufacturer).  I bought my last 2 cars online and just had them delivered to the house, and saved 14% compared to my local dealer offering about 5% and then stating, "We'll if you have a problem we're here to fix it".  I explained I was hoping to not to have a problem in the first place and the warranty on a new car means I can take it to you anyway.....

405line 9 April 2020

Vauxhall cars

and the fact that the buyer won't want to drive it first is a bonus for Vauxhall, I had one and I wondered if the designer(s) had ever driven it before it went on sale.