Right car, wrong target for Vauxhall?

If the extravagance of a car launch offers an insight into its importance to a manufacturer then the roll-out of the new Corsa is crucial to Vauxhall. The car was flown along the River Thames by helicopter last week, before being unveiled to 1

If the extravagance of a car launch offers an insight into its importance to a manufacturer then the roll-out of the new Corsa is crucial to Vauxhall. The car was flown along the River Thames by helicopter last week, before being unveiled to 1,000 invited guests from across Europe at a gig by Grammy Award-winning reggae artist Sean Paul.

It is perhaps no surprise that Vauxhall went to such lengths. The next day, the fourth-generation Corsa was being presented to the world’s press at the British International Motorshow, and the company is hoping it will become the biggest seller in one of the most fiercely competitive car sectors.

In need of a boost

Vauxhall, owned by troubled General Motors, could do with a boost. Its sales to the end of June were down more than 6% on the same period last year according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, and, although the UK car market as a whole is struggling, Vauxhall’s biggest rival Ford is only down 3%, and the overall market down by 4%.

Fiat’s successful launch of the Grande Punto at the end of last year, which many believe has helped save the iconic Italian marque, illustrates the positive effect a model revamp can have on a company.

Vauxhall group marketing manager Richard Hughes says: “Corsa is one of the key models in our range. It’s one of the final pieces of the jigsaw because we’ve practically changed the whole line-up. The new models show that Vauxhall’s design is going forward. We believe that the Corsa is right, and that we’re in a strong position compared to the competition.”

The Corsa’s Motorshow launch stand was created by design agency PCI Fitch, using an “urban playground” theme to reflect the fact that Vauxhall is aiming the car at the “young, fun, 20-something generation”. It goes on sale in the UK in mid-October and the ad campaign, which will be created by Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners, is expected to be based on a similar theme.

However, former Toyota GB commercial director Mike Moran questions the logic of aiming the Corsa at young people, describing it as a “bizarre” decision. “I don’t think it’s the right position for that car because it isn’t going to particularly appeal to young people,” he says. “It’s a general problem in the industry that companies are targeting cars at 18- to 30-year-olds. They don’t generally buy new cars. The average age of a new car buyer is approximately 43. Young people buy second-hand cars.”

Small is good

Small cars are now the choice of one in three new car buyers in the UK, and the Corsa has long been among the best sellers in the sector. Britons buy about 85,000 Corsas a year and it is traditionally one of the top five models in the UK. So far this year it is the fourth-best seller and last year it was third.

It would be an exaggeration to call this a make-or-break launch for Vauxhall, which is still the second-biggest manufacturer in the UK

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