A few of us gathered in a central London eatery last night to bid farewell to Duncan Aldred, departing CEO of Vauxhall, generally admired among the hackery for his candour, humility and straight answers to questions.
Though Aldred’s skill as a businessman is not our primary concern he obviously has it in spades: he took the top job at Vauxhall job in 2010 when sales were very much on the floor, and leaves it not quite four years later well on track for the promised mid-decade profitability, and with sales doing so well that Vauxhall now looks a realistic threat to Ford as UK market leader - without (as Aldred hastens to put it) buying market share by offering unprofitable incentives.
Over the past year or so Vauxhall has been identified to other GM Europe outposts as a home of best practice, notably for its terrific ability at turning a high percentage of leads into sales.
Perhaps Aldred’s finest hour was designing and promoting a plan (that required buy-in from Vauxhall workers and suppliers as well as as the UK government) that induced GM’s top management to award the Ellesmere Port plant a new model - and a consequently new lease of life - when it had looked a near-certainty for closure. He takes particular pleasure in Ellesmere’s reprieve, having started his Vauxhall career there as a graduate trainee.