Blog: Opel Ampera - where's the Vauxhall? [UPDATED 28/1/09]
Dave Leggett | 27 January 2009
[ADDS COMMENT FROM GM ABOUT VAUXHALL AT THE BOTTOM]
I quite like the Ampera name for the European Opel that will be based on the same technology as that used by the Chevrolet Volt. Nice use of an electrical term (Ohmee, anyone?).
But I wonder why Vauxhall would not confirm to us that it will be available here in Britain as a Vauxhall, which is standard practice for GM Europe? Will it be sold here as an Opel to differentiate it from the rest of the Vauxhall pack (no, I don't think so - that would be messy), or is the Vauxhall brand going to be dumped so that GM's mainstream brand across all of Europe is Opel? Possibly.
If it goes, would Vauxhall be mourned? Not greatly and arguably Opel could play well in the UK market with its core value of German-ness as this new high-tech Ampera arrives. The dealers and customers would soon get used to it. Look at how quickly people here accepted a new Chevrolet brand and forgot all about Daewoo.
The Vauxhall badge for Britain only certainly smacks of tradition and maybe slightly of anachronistic anomaly in these days of international car brands (even the RHD Irish market gets Opel because 'British' Vauxhall wasn't all that appealing to them - read your history).
But - and here's the reason why Vauxhall is still here - it's very well established and well known.
And here's a thought on rebranding an established brand like Vauxhall: building the new brand in the UK market wouldn't be cheap. It would involve heavy initial marketing spend just to get basic brand awareness in the market. Is now the time for taking on that extra cost, not to mention the hassles with dealers who would oppose the move? A saving only comes when you close down a brand - not when you rebrand (which brings additional costs like new dealer signage, too) - and even that saving can take a while to realise, as GM itself discovered with Oldsmobile.
Still on branding though, how does a Chevrolet - a value brand in Europe remember - Volt work potentially running alongside the Opel Ampera in the same market? My understanding was that GM wants to maximise volume and will therefore also market the Chevrolet Volt in Europe - the two being offered in some of the same markets.
I wonder how different they will be (Captiva/Antara spring to mind as a spot-the-difference exercise) in the flesh? Perhaps heavy differentiation in looks and package will help to justify different prices - but these vehicles won't come cheap.
Maybe it will in reality be either/or according to particular markets - Western Europe mainly getting the Opel, with markets further east such as Russia more likely to get the Chevrolet Volt.
If truth be known, I don't expect these things are anywhere near being finally decided inside GM yet. There's still a lot of work to be done on these vehicles before getting to the marketing plan.
But there's still that curious unresolved question concerning the apparently non-existent Vauxhall version and the GM PR man being rather tight lipped on the subject. However, he did clearly state that he could not confirm that there will be a Vauxhall version of the Ampera, which is, on the face of it, a little odd. Ooh, keeps us guessing and gassing...
Post Script: Someone at GM has been in touch to poor a bucket of very cold water on the notion of the Vauxhall brand being dumped. A Vauxhall Ampera cannot be confirmed at this stage, because market allocations for the Ampera have not yet been decided - that will be dependent on external incentives, they say (though I cannot imagine it would not be sold in Britain). If it comes to Britain, we are now told, it will certainly be a Vauxhall.
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