Vauxhall Mokka Electric accounts for more than 25% of all Mokka sales
As British firm targets upmarket EV segment, Vauxhall boss expects “strong interest” in electric models to come
Vauxhall is making rapid progress towards its major goal of becoming an EV-only company by 2028, according to managing director James Taylor, whose imminent aims are to boost battery model take-up and raise Vauxhall’s position in the market – close to but distinct from Peugeot, its Stellantis stablemate.
“Astra going electric is a big milestone for both our popular family car as well as for the Vauxhall brand,” he said. “Our move to electrification is already bringing new customers, so we expect strong interest in both the hatchback and estate models when they arrive in the UK.
The opportunity to ‘tune’ Vauxhall’s positioning in the mainstream market comes as a direct result of joining the Stellantis conglomerate, according to group design director Mark Adams, a Brit with responsibility for both Vauxhall and Opel cars.
“We want to ensure there’s a correct bandwidth between our various marques,” Adams said. “We see Vauxhall-Opel, like Peugeot, as being in the upper part of the mainstream segment. We believe the two marques can be quite distinct, and appeal to different buyers, because of their priorities and histories. Vauxhall-Opel is uniquely a German-British brand, with a quite different appeal from Peugeot, which clearly has strong French roots.
Taylor cites his other priority as being to build Vauxhall’s already thriving light commercial market.
“All three of our van models have been available with electric power since last year,” Taylor said. “Our aim is to be selling only electric vans – seven years ahead of the government’s deadline.”
Q&A with Vauxhall designer director Mark Adams
Has joining Stellantis brought about a repositioning of the Vauxhall brand?
“Definitely. No doubt about it. We believe we can be a step above the pure mainstream brands, not abandoning our volume customer base but offering them a particular kind of personality and quality. We’re already on that path.”
The Corsa is being updated. What are the priorities for that?
“Clearly, the big one is to adopt our new front face, much as you see it on the Mokka and the Astra. When Opel was joining PSA, and later Stellantis, we’d already frozen the Corsa design. Don’t get me wrong: we’re proud of what we’ve done with it, and there’s plenty of life in it. And the market has backed us. “But the new corporate nose makes the car look very new and different. We’ve progressed the interior, too. The whole idea is to ‘detox’ it – to make it simpler.”
Vauxhall is doing well with hatchbacks, but an era of ‘skateboard’ chassis is coming. Can the hatchback saloon survive?
“There will be changes. But that doesn’t mean everything will need to be tall. It depends where the technology takes us. Cars will be generally taller. Batteries will be carried underneath. But aero will be important, too, and lower cars have an advantage there.”
Electrification is bringing flexibility to mechanical layouts. How much will mainstream cars change?
“Depends how far you want to push. The opportunities are great: a wheel at each corner, shorter overhangs, more flexibility around the apertures, even changes to where you put the occupants. Up to now, that big lump in the nose has controlled almost everything. We’re looking beyond 2028 right now, and the opportunities are great. But it’s still a matter of designing cars people like.”
How far ahead do you look?
“For us, a 10-year horizon is about right, and the sheer breadth of future opportunities put a lot of strain on your engineering and your opportunity to invest. You can’t make big decisions too far out because the pace of change might catch you out.”
Hot hatches have been crucial over past decades, both for image building and selling cars. How will they fare in future?
“They’ll be around, but they’ll change. Our GS-e line will appear soon to show our view. Cars like them will have strong performance, but it won’t be explosive. The opportunities to use huge power are in decline. But driving enjoyment must and will survive. We’ll concentrate on driving enjoyment, responsiveness, agility – stuff like that.”