20 June 2019
This week TNB attended the UK media launch of the new Vauxhall Vivaro – a van that’s important not only to the brand but also to the town where it’s made and to British automotive manufacturing as a whole.
Barely 18 months have passed since Carlos Tavares, boss of PSA, visited Luton’s historic Vauxhall plant to deliver is vision for its future.
His message was overwhelmingly positive but, in return for the group’s commitment, he laid out tough demands around productivity, efficiency and profitability.
Since then, the transformation at the plant – which has been a key part of the Vauxhall story for 110 years – as been astonishing. PSA has backed its positive words with affirmative action, investing more than £110 million to create a world class, state-of-the-art van production plant.
And this investment continues to be paid back in spades by all those involved at the plant.
Within just a few short months a dilapidated underground car park at the site has been repurposed into a cutting-edge facility that will be fully turned on next month and will eventually produce around 60,000 new vans per year.
In addition, a new labour agreement has been agreed with the workforce and trades unions and this in turn has seen 1,250 jobs at the plant secured.
What’s more, the site is already achieving world-beating efficiency levels and leading the way in areas such as weld integrity. As a result, it now finds itself with a starring role in PSA’s ambitious PACE strategy to increase its LCV volumes by a staggering 25% in just a few short years.
This transformation has taken a gargantuan effort by all those involved, and the immense pride felt by each and every one of them is palpable and shone through as the plant played host to the UK media launch of the new Vivaro.
Motoring journalists are a discerning bunch and have high expectations from the many new model launches they attend. The launch of the all-new Vauxhall Vivaro earlier this week was no exception.
The brand’s PR team really went to town, even creating a bespoke presentation space with real wow factor at the Vivaro plant in Luton. At the end of the presentation, after those attending had heard all about the van’s merits from company execs, the walls fell down and journalists found themselves sitting at the heart of the new production line, which duly sparked into life.
Speaking to TNB, Brad Miller, Brand Manager for Commercial Vehicles at Vauxhall, said, “There has been a rebirth and rejuvenation of manufacturing in Luton which is fantastic.
“This is a really positive story and it’s great to see the Luton plant is looking forward and aiming to achieve volumes it’s never hit before.”
He added, “Since Carlos Tavares came in and made his announcement, everything’s progressed rapidly and it’s been an incredibly quick transition, which is great news for us.
“The fact we have a new parent company that’s made a big investment in our plant, people and equipment is fantastic and given that we will now be building a world-class vans in a world-class plant and have just made a profit for the first time in 20 years, the long-term future looks very bright.”
While the old Vivaro was still selling strongly, the new model represents a real step forward in quality and ambition.
Available as with a choice of two cutting edge diesel powerplants and as a panel van, crew van and chassis cab, new Vivaro shares its platform with the Grandland X SUV and delivers car-like dynamics as a result. Crucially, this also allows the brand to introduce passenger car safety and connectivity features and capitalise on the growing trend for LCV accessories.
Emissions are up to 27% lower than the outgoing van, while fuel returns are among the best in class. And despite being more compact than its predecessor, new Vivaro also offers an upgraded payload and volume.
All of the positivity surrounding new Vivaro couldn’t help but rub off on the media as they test drove the van on a scenic route through the Chilterns, before ending up back at a Vauxhall dealership and a presentation on how the brand is working with its nationwide network of dedicated van centres to deliver an aftersales experience to match its ambitions.
While in essence, the new Vivaro is just a van, it’s so important to so many people – and such a milestone in the brand’s history – it’s hard not to see it as so much more than that and to drive it without feeling like you’re playing some small part in its history.