Vauxhall says it is looking to leverage its British heritage with the recent announcement it is to sponsor the national football teams of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Conceding he wanted customers to "love us a bit more", Vauxhall managing director Duncan Aldred outlined his thinking behind the sponsorship at this year's Geneva show.

"The Vauxhall brand is uniquely British, we only sell in the UK," he said. "We did that [sponsorship] because it is British and who else is going to do it apart from Vauxhall?"

"It just fits us perfectly. We aim to build some resonance with the British public - everyone knows us but we need people to love us a little bit more."

Highlighting Vauxhall's 108 year history in the UK, Aldred noted new Wales manager Gary Speed's father had worked at the Ellesmere Port plant - now home to the Astra and the sole source of the Tourer wagon version - for 15 years.

"What it said to me was the brand had touched people such as Gary Speed, so we have an intrinsic part in British society," he added.

Speculation concerning the amount Vauxhall will plough into its sponsorship deal has ranged up to GBP100m (US$162m) across all four home nations but it is thought this figure is more likely to be nearer GBP40m.

In separate comments, Aldred echoed Opel/Vauxhall CEO Nick Reilly's view yesterday (1 March) that the aim was to eliminate losses this year with the Vauxhall chief maintaining union wage negotiations would be pragmatic.

"We have a five year plan and we have to break even this year," he said. "As a business, we have to cut our cloth accordingly.

"There is realism and pragmatism in the Unite union and I am very conscious of the sacrifices everyone has made . It will be tough this year because we know what has happened to inflation."