A History Of Vauxhall Motors, From Pumps To MPVs

by : Thomas Pretty

Vauxhall can trace its history back one hundred and fifty years when founder Alex Wilson, opened a factory in the district of Vauxhall, that originally built pumps and engines. It wasn't until 1903 that the first Vauxhall car was built and the first dealerships sprouted up to sell this car.

In 1925 Vauxhall Motors, as the company was now known was bought out by the American General Motors for the princely sum of two and a half million dollars. This strong American influence led to design of Vauxhall cars, and European cars more generally being akin to their American counterparts. The war years were fruitful for the company as they adapted their machinery to build the Churchill Tank rather than the cars that fill the forecourts of today's dealerships.

It was not until the seventies and eighties that the company experienced resurgence in fortunes thanks to popular late sixties models such as the Viva and Victor. The Viva continued to fly out of the dealerships during the seventies but the Victor faced stiff market competition from competitors such as the Ford Cortina. Despite the popularity of the Viva, Vauxhall still found themselves falling behind its two main competitors Ford and British Leyland in terms of sales and the money dealerships were making.

The mid-seventies however brought about a revival of fortunes with two new dynamic models rolling onto the forecourts of dealerships. The Vauxhall Chevette was the first of a new generation of small three door hatchbacks and sold extremely well, while the Cavalier was a saloon that was beginning to claw back the huge market share possessed by the Cortina. Thankfully by the end of the decade the gap between Ford and Vauxhall was beginning to be closed.

The end of the decade and the commencement of the eighties once again brought a new range of models to the forecourts of dealerships. The Astra was developed as a small family hatchback that would replace the Viva and become the backbone of every new range since. The Vauxhall Nova replaced the Chevette as part of the new 'super-mini' generation being manufactured by many companies. The most important car for Vauxhall during the eighties was the Mk2 Cavalier that was released as a large family car rather than a saloon. Its sleek design and new drive format made it a popular alternative to the Ford Sierra.

The biggest success for the company during this decade however was most probably the Carlton. As the pinnacle of the Vauxhall range that took pride of place in dealerships and showrooms across the land it received the accolade of European Car of the Year in 1986; its vast use of technology and comfortable ride made it a brilliant and affordable executive saloon. The eighties also saw Vauxhalls shake off the image of being rust prone that had blighted their sales up until this point.

The nineties really saw Vauxhall Motors thrive with a host of new and redesigned models present in dealerships. The Astra was coming into its own and offering a startling alternative to its main competitor the Ford Escort, while the Nova was being scrapped for the radically designed Corsa that would corner a large part of the small car market. The mid nineties saw a range of new models such as the Vectra, a large family car taking over the role of the Cavalier; and the Zafira, a departure from past models to incorporate an MPV into the range.

Today sees Vauxhall stronger than ever with a great deal of choice in contemporary dealerships. The Corsa has been re-launched twice since its inception and still proves to be popular among young drivers and small families. The Astra is still around and is currently in its fifth generation with a radical new design that has had a mixed reception from the motoring public.

The Vectra is still popular although a successor is believed to be just around the corner. The strongest suit is probably the Meriva and Zafira MPVs, the Zafira being one of the ten best selling cars in the UK. Vauxhall have come along way from their beginnings manufacturing marine pumps, today they are one of the most widely used car brands in Britain.