It’s funny the things you hear when you’re out and about, going about your business. Today involved meeting some industry types and, while siting in the boardroom waiting for the main agenda of the day, an interesting titbit came my way. ‘I hear a rumour from a very well-placed source that Jaguar Land Rover is considering buying Vauxhall,’ this industry executive said.
Now that is very interesting indeed. Because it’s not the first time I’ve heard this – nor is it the first time I’ve expounded this very idea.
Rewind to the day that the PSA-Opel/Vauxhall deal was made public, and I was in the fortunate position of being able to speak to a number of Vauxhall and Opel types. It was at the Geneva Motor Show, and I was upstairs in the Opel/Vauxhall lounge. Not only that, but it was at a good time – the CEO of PSA Group, Carlos Tavares, was standing on stage telling the world why his company was in the process of buying General Motor’s European carmaking division.
Opel confident, but what of Vauxhall?
While he addressed the crowd, I looked down from above, and watched the address – alongside me, an Opel executive stood. ‘You must be very excited,’ I said to the young blade from Russelsheim. ‘Oh, yes,’ he replied, chest puffed out. ‘We will be very good indeed for PSA. Opel will be a great fit in the portfolio.’
Minutes earlier, I’d been speaking to Rory Harvey, the Chairman and Managing Director of Vauxhall. You can read what he had to say in my piece on the CAR website, but somehow, his chest wasn’t puffed out in the same way. He was very positive, of course, as were the rest of the Vauxhall PR team in attendance – but, somehow, they didn’t look as relaxed as their German colleagues. Fielding all those questions about the future of Luton and Ellesmere Port must have been very tiring indeed.
The American view
At the show, I’d also caught up with Richard Truett, our man in the USA. There’s been much discussion about PSA’s deal. He said that he thought that Vauxhall possibly had less value for PSA than Opel, and that it would make perfect sense for JLR to look at taking on the Griffin. He’s explained why this is a very good idea for JLR in his blog on the Automotive News website – and you can’t argue with his logic.
Given that JLR wants to crack a million cars a year – and wants to do it at speed – you can see how a new brand in the portfolio would make sense. Ellesmere Port, especially, would add much-needed production capacity for Jaguar Land Rover and, as brilliant new products such as the Jaguar I-Pace, E-Pace and Range Rover Velar clearly demonstrate, the company is on a roll making cars that people actually want.
How to make a million…
Last year, the company built approaching 600,000 cars a year – and that’s still some way off the magic million. So, adding Vauxhall to the portfolio would surely be a good way of adding volume, and doing it using a brand that’s not tainted like so many in its back catalogue. Richard and I both thought Rover could have been that brand, but the chaps at JLR went a long way in telling us that they disagreed…
Could a plan involving Ellesmere Port, Luton, and a conversation with PSA and GM over licensing agreements on the excellent new Insignia Grand Sport and Sports Tourer (below) make sense? That, as well as a deal over the big-selling Corsa and Astra, may be in the offing – in lieu of co-developing a new range of cars. And this could possibly happen with the help of Tata.
Given how closely JLR engineers are working with Tata on its future model line-up right now (so I’ve been told, anyway), it’s looking like an outside bet. But it’s one that might be worth putting an each-way on, if you catch my drift. Certainly, there’s a bit of a buzz about the whole thing right now, and it’s slowly gaining momentum.