In the first of a series of columns dedicated to the VXR brand – the performance arm of Vauxhall – brand manager Stuart Harris looks at what VXR is, and how motorsport helps Vauxhall push home the performance message.
The idea behind the VXR brand is partly to try and relive the days of the good old Astra GTE and other similar 'hot hatches', but is also much more.
You only have to look at the UK market. It's amazing to think that we have some of the most draconian speeding issues of any market in Europe, just look at the number of camera sites we will have over the next few years. But, as a market, we have a massive interest in performance, and we saw this as an opportunity for us to show what we can do.
The VXR brand is meant to be a bit harder-edged than the old GTEs and GSIs of before. We have put a lot more engineering into the vehicles. They aren't 'badge engineered' cars, they are cars that are built on a limited basis and that provide a huge amount of fun and entertainment. They are more aggressive than the older cars so, for us to have the VXR brand and the VX Racing side of things, it makes it an ideal tie-up really for us to use.
The whole plan with the VXR brand was to introduce it in motorsport , which we did in 2002. It was about that time that we started to introduce the concept of the road car programme and that became apparent with the VX220 and the Monaro VXR. From that point on, we introduced other models, some of which will be finished next year when we introduce the Corsa VXR, and then we will build on that. It is a brand in its infancy, but what we have now are the various pieces on the table to really support it.
Last week, we launched the VXR Performance Centre, which is for those guys, the real enthusiasts out there, who want to take their car to another level of performance. We are arranging our pieces on the chess board - we have the racing side covered, we have a good range of road cars, a further enhancement programme going with the performance centre, and we are now going to try and push it even harder in the UK with things like advertising.
With the performance centre, we'll take a VXR or the SRi range and we'll be improving both performance and handling – not so much the looks because we think they are aggressive enough as it is. Certainly, the performance and ride and handling side of things will become more 'track biased'. For an OEM to produce these kind of things for general consumption will be considered too harsh and too aggressive, but we have a hardcore of customers – both blokes and girls – who want to make their car more individual and love doing trackdays, and we will offer enhancements to move the VXR brand up a further notch. But it isn't really for general use to be fair.
The Astra and Monaro get the headlines, but the VXR brand goes beyond that, and includes cars that are a little bit different. When we launched the Zafira GSi, there was general disbelief at us launching a high-perfromance MPV, but it came out and we sold a considerable number of them and people were both surprised and delighted. Now everyone else is coming out with them - Ford have launched one, there is one from Volkswagen that will be performance-based, and it is really case of saying to people that 'just because you have moved out of hot-hatches and have a family and might need an MPV, why should you miss out on performance driving?'.
It's all about having fun while you're driving so, if you want an estate car and you want a fast car, then why shouldn't you have one? The Vectra estate is a prime example, and Audi have done a fantastic job in pushing the hyper-performance side of things with the RS range. So why not have the fun?