Vauxhall's Mondeo-rival accelerated for launch next autumn
18 April 2007

Autocar.co.uk can bring you exclusive inside information on the all new Vauxhall Vectra. The new family Vauxhall, previewed in our artist's impression, was originally planned for a 2009 launch, but a dramatic slump in Vauxhall Vectra sales has left General Motors scrambling to get the car to showrooms as soon as possible.

Tear up the launch schedule

The Saab 9-5 was due to be the first General Motors product to use the company’s new mid-size platform, known as Epsilon 2, but a 10 per cent slide in European sales of the bigger-selling Vectra has forced GM to knock the Saab back in the schedule and focus resources on the Vauxhall/Opel product. It is aiming to get the Vectra (probably renamed Insignia, a badge last used on an Opel concept in 2003) into showrooms by autumn 2008.Scoop pictures we published recently (see gallery) showed the new hatchback cold weather testing in the Arctic Circle. Like the new Mondeo, its main rival, the Insignia will be considerably larger than the car it replaces. The production car should have similar proportions to the GTC concept seen at Geneva last month, which is 4.7m long with a 1.8m-long load space. It will also share some of the GTC’s coupé profile, with a steeply-sloping rear window and C-pillar to create a significantly more dramatic–looking car than the Vectra. The concept’s unusual upright air intakes below the headlights won’t make production, although the split grille with upper and lower intakes (visible in our scoop pictures) will.

A shift in market positioning

The scrapping of the Vectra name is linked to GM’s desire to improve Opel and Vauxhall’s image. GM Europe’s design boss Bryan Nesbitt said that they needed to add some emotional reasons to the mostly rational ones that people made when buying the Vectra; GM is after younger, trendier customers for the Opel/Vauxhall brands. “Better-looking cars on the road are better for the bottom line,” said a GM source — fewer fleet sales should mean better residual values and more confidence in the brand.Inside, the Insignia will get the concept’s dashboard. Close examination of the GTC concept’s interior revealed that many of the components, including the dash top, centre console and door bins, were production-ready. GM Europe design chief Bryan Nesbitt confirmed that the company wants to greatly improve the car’s perceived cabin quality.The front-drive chassis will be supplemented by a four-wheel-drive option, using a new generation of Haldex four-wheel drive transmission. It will be able to shift torque distribution from side to side as well as front to back, to reduce understeer when cornering. The range-topping Insignia will also use a twin-turbo version of GM’s 2.8-litre petrol V6. Other engines include a new five-cylinder diesel, which we’ll see first in the new Saab 9-3.

Dan Stevens

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