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A History Of Vauxhall Cars During The Twentieth Century

Jun 26, 2008
Vauxhall dealers have always had a range of cars on their forecourts that can be classified as budget vehicles. Unlike Mercedes and Bentley dealers, those affiliated to Vauxhall have chose to ignore the luxury car market and instead focus on the middling to low price range. With a heritage that has been built over the last one hundred and fifty years, and a car manufacturing history going back more than a century, Vauxhall have consistently aimed to put cheap cars on the forecourts of their dealers for all manner of customers.

The founder of Vauxhall Motors, Alex Wilson, originally started a company that manufactured engines and pumps. It was during the turn of the century that Mr Wilson decided to lend his hand and the efforts of his company to manufacturing cars for the general public. At this stage though there were not many dealers or forecourts, cars were distributed by other means until they became an affordable option for the masses.

Around twenty years forward from this inaugural production, Vauxhall made a deal with an American company that would change the way its dealers traded as well as the cars they had on their forecourts for generations. The car manufacturing giant of the USA, General Motors bought out Vauxhall, at the time gaining control over the British company for the princely sum of two and a half million dollars, the deal included ownership of everything, factories, development, dealers, the lot. Unfortunately for Vauxhall this meant that for years the cars that they would produce would be heavily influenced by the designs of their American owners. While this has changed in recent years, for much of the twentieth century Vauxhall were forced to produce cars that resembled their American cousins.

After the war period when Vauxhall factories manufactured the Churchill tank to help the war effort, Vauxhall entered into a rivalry with Ford that survives to this day to capture the budget car market. Part of this rivalry manifested itself during the late sixties and early seventies when the two Vauxhall models of the time, the Viva and Victor were set up to directly compete with the corresponding Ford models the Cortina and Corsair. Even though the Viva was extremely popular with dealers and customers the Cortina proved to be a far more popular car with the British motoring public. While the rivalry with Ford was well established, also during this period British Leyland proved to be considerably impressive in attracting custom in the UK.

Dealers affiliated to a variety of companies experienced a great time during the mid seventies. Vauxhall put forward the Chevette as their most affordable model, a small three door hatchback that was the beginning of the small family car trend. As well as the Chevette, the Cavalier was produced as a larger saloon car to capture the prestige market. However, Vauxhall were still chasing Ford who had a variety of models that were extremely popular. Of these models the sporty Capri captured the imagination of young professionals while the Cortina was still proving to be popular with the motoring fraternity.

The eighties were somewhat of a watershed for Vauxhall with some seminal models rolling onto the forecourts of dealers. The most important of these models was the Astra, another small family car that is still produced today although after undergoing some radical design changes. Despite the popularity of the Astra it was still trailing in terms of sales to Ford's Escort, by far the most popular car in the UK during the late eighties and early nineties.

Today Vauxhall have built on past successes and are now regarded to be the most popular car manufacturer in the UK. With a variety of models ranging from small family cars, to large saloon and even MPVs they cover a number of markets. As the motoring industry becomes increasingly cutthroat however Vauxhall will have to research and develop new models at pace to ensure they stay ahead of the competition.
About the Author
Motoring expert Thomas Pretty investigates the variety of cars that have graced the forecourts of Vauxhall dealers throughout the latter twentieth century.
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