Bosses at the US corporation’s European arm believe better quality, improved looks and an array of pacesetting technology will allow the Insignia range to gain fresh ground in the fiercely-contested battle for sales in the volume business and family car sector.
“This car will look and feel better. It will have a distinctly ‘premium’ air – but because we recognise the clear economic drivers in our business, it will remain affordable and good value,” insists GM Europe sales and marketing vice-president Jonathan Browning.
“It is very important that we retain affordability, but we must also offer the substance that customers are willing to pay for – it all comes down to getting the right balance,” adds Browning, who is also chairman of Vauxhall Motors.
He says the introduction of a new name is a crucial element in the development programme. “Most names go through a life cycle and there comes a time when it makes sense to change.
“Insignia fits very well with the type of product we are bringing to the market next year and extensive research has shown that customers react to it in a very positive way,” he says.
Browning declines to reveal the cost implications of binning the Vectra name, but concedes it is significant.
“The process started in 2003 when we tested the Insignia name on our concept car at the Frankfurt Motor Show. It went down well,” he says.
“Of course, making a name change is a big thing and we have to establish the new identity right away. That’s why we’ve started talking about it, even though we’re not showing pictures.
“It will be April before we begin releasing basic images and the car itself will not be revealed until the London Motor Show in July, when dealers will begin taking orders in advance of availability, which we expect to be in October or November.
“Building awareness of Insignia will represent a considerable investment, but it will be worthwhile. When you launch a car with a new name, it is a break point and one that defines a new era. And this is a new era for our brand.
“The momentum of Vauxhall is tremendous at the moment and we’re running ahead of 10% of the large volume car sector. The Vectra is performing well. In 2005 and 2006 it achieved 45,000 and 44,000 sales respectively and to the end of October this year, registrations reached 45,000.
“The car has been a stable and strong performer, particularly in the retail market. In fact, retail sales are up by 27%,” he says.
#AM_ART_SPLIT# So what is the marketing strategy for the new hatchback, saloon and estate competitor for the Mondeo?
“I’m not going to make volume forecasts at this stage, but we’re looking for significant growth and for this car to establish a leading position among the volume makers in the segment,” he says. Browning cites the Astra Sports hatch as an example of injecting more emotion into the brands.
“Instead of merely rolling out a three-door version of the five-door car, we offer a different identity and a lot more product substance. It’s a package that attracts because there’s a lot of content and equipment. It also gives us the opportunity to generate more revenue on the same number of sales.
“This is what we’re doing with our European brands and it’s working because we are making our cars more efficiently in better facilities,” he claims.
Though he declines to discuss technical details, Browning says the Insignia has been specifically tailored to the UK, Europe’s biggest market for the Vectra. Detail chassis work and fine-tuning of suspension and dampers is set to continue for several months at the Millbrook research and test centre before the project is signed off for factory verification in the summer.
“We are making sure we address the needs of the UK market for style, trim content and technical make-up. We’ve developed an athletic vehicle that represents the driving dynamics we seek as a core part of our market positioning.
“Insignia will appear well- balanced, active and have a great stance. It’s a large car, but it will look compact and purposeful. I can promise you that it will not only be a leap forward visually, but it will represent significant progress in technology.
“Astra and Corsa allowed us to take big steps forward, but Insignia is a next-generation car representing a giant leap – it’s the vehicle that rounds out our core product range and takes GM to the point of offering one of the strongest portfolio of vehicles among mainstream manufacturers.”