Vauxhall Motors is the UK subsidiary of General Motors. Although originally the most significant part of the GM European operations, Vauxhall has had many ups and downs, with particular low periods in the mid 1970s and the late 1990s.
Vauxhall Motors was originally founded in Vauxhall, London in 1857 by Alexander Wilson as the Vauxhall Iron Works. The griffin emblem, which is still in use to this day, (above right) is derived from the coat of arms of Fulk le Breant, a mercenary soldier who was granted the Manor of Luton for services to King John in the thirteenth century. By marriage, he also gained the rights to an area near London, south of the Thames. The house he built, Fulk's Hall, became known in time as Vauxhall. The Vauxhall Iron Works built machinery such as pumps and marine engines. In 1903 the company built its first car, a 5 hp model steered using a tiller, with only two forward gears and no reverse. However this led to a better design which was made available for sale.
To expand production the company moved to Luton in 1905, and so the griffin emblem returned to its ancestral home. The company continued to trade under the name Vauxhall Iron Works until 1907, when the modern name of Vauxhall Motors Ltd. was adopted. The company was characterised by its sporting successes, but after the First World War, designed more austere models. Vauxhall was bought by GM in 1925 for 2.5 million US dollars.
During World War Two, car production was suspended, and Vauxhall designed the Churchill tank, which was designed at Luton in less than a year, and assembled there as well as at a variety of other sites. A total of over 5,600 Churchill tanks were built.
After the war, car production resumed but models were designed as a much more mass-market product, leading to great expansion of the company. A new manufacturing plant at Ellesmere Port was built in 1960. During the 1960s Vauxhall acquired a reputation for making rust-prone models, though in this respect most manufacturers were equally as bad. The corrosion protection built-in to models was tightened up significantly, but the reputation dogged the company until the early 1980s. From the 1970s, most models were designed and built in partnership with Opel in Germany. The Chevette, Cavalier and Carlton were basically facelifted versions of the Kadett, Ascona and Rekord, featuring a distinct sloping front end, nicknamed the "droopsnoot", first prototyped on the HPF Firenza. These cars featured different engines and body styles from their Opel counterparts - it was not until the 1980s that the two companies started building cars with identical bodies and engines.
All models now share names with their Opel counterparts, with the exception of the VX220, sold by Opel as the Speedster. Vauxhall's models now differ from Opel's in that they have a distinct grille featuring a 'V', incorporating the Vauxhall badge. This has also been used by Holden in New Zealand, and even on the Indian version of the Opel Astra.
The Luton plant finally closed in 2000, but production still continues at the plant in Ellesmere Port. Many cars badged as Opels, even left hand drive, are in fact produced by Vauxhall for export. In fact, many new Opel-badged cars are privately imported into the UK from other EU countries. especially from Ireland, the EU's only other right hand drive market.
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2 Light commercial vehicles
3 See Also
4 External Links