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
Steve Cropley Autocar
News
2 mins read
9 April 2020

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.”

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Comments
14

9 April 2020

I'm not sure when it comes to spending thousands of pounds, many potential buyers would not want to see the car first or test drive one, especially if it's a brand or model new to the customer, rather than essentially dial up for a takeaway car order. More so when it comes to haggling for a price too, where there's more chance of having the price reduced face to face.

9 April 2020

I do worry for Vauxhall, they were number 2 to Ford for decades, but so far this year they're number 7 behind VW, Ford, BMW, Mercedes, Audi & Toyota and in March they were number 9 having been overtaken by Kia & Nissan. And Land Rover were only 92 units behind them at number 10!

9 April 2020
Richiee wrote:

I do worry for Vauxhall, they were number 2 to Ford for decades, but so far this year they're number 7 behind VW, Ford, BMW, Mercedes, Audi & Toyota and in March they were number 9 having been overtaken by Kia & Nissan. And Land Rover were only 92 units behind them at number 10!

It doesnt matter what number theyre at - since PSA ownership theyve made a profit, yet they lost millions under GM for 20 odd years when they were number 2 to Ford.

23 April 2020

Vauxhall as a separate brand where always profitable until recently year once they started combining tge vauxhall opel figures then thats where the negative figures came in. It was clear that the parent company stripped all profitability out of both brands. 

A huge mistake by Gm was to replace Vauxhall brand with opel. As vauxhall gad a large respected  brand presence in common wealth nation bit GM saw oopel as the global brand and they lost sails. GM europe worked very hard to distance its self from gm North  American whicn was in trouble for a long time. I hope Vauxhall will continue to grow and find its self again under psa.

The factory workers are the most efficient in europe there unit cost are amongst tge lowest in Europe no German plant can match them. But a UK factory is easier to close than a German factory. Thats doenbto Governments protecting workers. 

I hope Vauxhall remains ahd griws as a british made brand 

 

 

9 April 2020

Very few new car buyers (or rather lessees) take a test drive these days, so he could be right. I've never understood how those large 'gin palace' dealerships have been profitable - must be even harder in the new climate.

9 April 2020

Everyone's in lockdown, car prices are soaring all the time (even mild model refreshes have been joined by huge price hikes even during the Coronavirus crisis - e.g. Mazda MX-5) and most people are working from home, yet a lot of people are still buying new cars? Odd.

 

9 April 2020
gavsmit wrote:

Everyone's in lockdown, car prices are soaring all the time (even mild model refreshes have been joined by huge price hikes even during the Coronavirus crisis - e.g. Mazda MX-5) and most people are working from home, yet a lot of people are still buying new cars? Odd.

 

Agree, it is odd, I wouldn't have thought anyone would be buying a new car in the current situation irrespective of the price hikes you mention.

9 April 2020

Vauxhall are not the only ones, Volvo + others have hinted that their EV cars will be sold this way.  And who can blame them a dealer might be adding £2k to price of £30k car which certainly adds up.

Just another way Tesla have shaken things up,  

9 April 2020

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.

Eh? What process. And what's different to the human being at the end of a telephone line to the human being in the showroom?

What can their human being tell me that the online configurator or website cannot? And for all of us who've called their manufacturer's customer services, we know only too well what their product knowledge is. I cannot think of a single reason I'd call the manufacturer to buy a car.

And as for that analogy to gin palaces, obviously Mr Norman hasn't set foot in a Vauxhall dealership. A Blue Nun bothy might be more accurate.

 

9 April 2020

“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.”, yeah I ve been buying my food and clothes over the phone for years . . . not, what is this guy on about ?

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