Vauxhall is on a mission to become the ‘number one car company in the UK’.
And before anyone raises the issue of assailing Ford’s position as the most popular brand by registrations, clarification is needed.
Steve Girsky, interim president of GM Europe and chairman of the Opel supervisory board, said at the Geneva Motor Show that Vauxhall could overtake Ford in the UK in the next three years.
But back at home Chris Roberts, retail network development director of Vauxhall UK and Opel Ireland, was keen to emphasise what this meant at its Luton headquarters.
“The objective is to be the best automotive company in the UK, whether you measure it through customer experience and satisfaction, brand loyalty or advocacy, or a combination of factors,” he said.
“If we can manage this, plus consistently bring out great products, market share will follow.
“It’s not just about being number one in the market, it’s about being the best in as many areas as we possibly can. We have a very strong documented objective to achieve this: it’s not written on the walls, but we have an absolute goal.”
And when will this have happened? “Probably 2016-ish”.
Roberts has not grown up, career-wise, in a manufacturer ‘silo’, doing his best to work up the ladder, making positive changes without ruffling too many feathers, and saying the right things to get noticed.
For seven years prior to his appointment in February he was the boss of a small Vauxhall dealer group in Lincolnshire.
He knows well enough what pressures dealers are under to make a decent margin, to run sustainable businesses and how fragile the market is.
“My overriding objective is to have a sustainable and profitable network with a great relationship between manufacturer and dealer,” Roberts said.
“It’s fine focusing on the customer, which we will continue to do, but you can’t miss the middle link of having a great relationship with the network because, ultimately, that will determine our success.”
Vauxhall has 428 sites in the UK: 346 of these are retailers, with the remainder authorised repairers.
The number is now steady, with the fall from 2008’s 411 sites down to “natural selection” and a business environment which has seen total franchised dealer numbers fall year-on-year for more than a decade.
Roberts put this down to rising operating and distribution costs.