History of Vauxhall Motors


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Vauxhall Motors (/ˈvksɔːl/; registered name General Motors UK Limited) is a British automotive manufacturing and distribution company headquartered in Luton, Bedfordshire, and a subsidiary of the German Adam Opel AG, itself a wholly owned subsidiary of the American General Motors (GM). The company sells passenger cars and light commercial vehicles under the Vauxhall marque; in the past it has also sold buses and trucks under the Bedford brand. Vauxhall has been the second-largest-selling car brand in the UK for over two decades.

Vauxhall was founded by Alexander Wilson in 1857 as a pump and marine engine manufacturer and began manufacturing cars in 1903. It was acquired by GM in 1925. Bedford Vehicles was established as a subsidiary of Vauxhall in 1930 to manufacture commercial vehicles. Having previously been a luxury car brand, after the Second World War Vauxhall became increasingly mass-market. Since 1980, Vauxhall products have been largely identical to those of Opel, GM’s German subsidiary, and most models are principally engineered in Rüsselsheim, Germany.[9] During the 1980s the Vauxhall brand was withdrawn from sale in all countries apart from the UK and its dependencies. Throughout its history, Vauxhall has been active in motorsports, including rallying and theBritish Touring Car Championship.

Vauxhall has major manufacturing facilities in Luton (commercial vehicles, IBC Vehicles) and Ellesmere Port, UK (passenger cars). The Luton plant currently employs around 900 staff and has a capacity of approximately 100,000 units. The Ellesmere Port plantcurrently employs around 1,880 staff and has a capacity of approximately 187,000 units. A high proportion of Vauxhall-branded vehicles sold in the UK, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands are produced at Opel factories in Germany, Spain and Poland, and roughly 80% of Vauxhall production is exported, most of which is sold under the Opel brand.

Notable former Vauxhall production cars include the Viva, Victor, Chevette and Cavalier. The current Vauxhall car range includes the Adam (city car), Agila (city car), Ampera (extended range electric vehicle), Astra (small family car), Cascada (convertible), Corsa(supermini), Insignia (large family car), Meriva (compact MPV), Mokka (subcompact SUV) and Zafira Tourer (large MPV). Vauxhall sells high-performance versions of some of its models under the VXR sub-brand.

Scottish marine engineer Alexander Wilson founded the company at 90-92 Wandsworth Road, Vauxhall, London in 1857.[12] Originally named Alex Wilson and Company, then Vauxhall Iron Works from 1897, the company built pumps and marine engines. In 1903 the company built its first car, a five-horsepower single-cylinder model steered using a tiller, with two forward gears and no reverse gear. Around 70 cars were made in the first year before in 1904 the car was improved with wheel steering and a reverse gear. A single survivor could still be seen at the London Science Museum in 1968.

To expand, the company moved the majority of its production to Luton in 1905. The company continued to trade under the name Vauxhall Iron Works until 1907, when the modern name of Vauxhall Motors was adopted. The company was characterised by its sporting models, but after World War I the company’s designs were more austere.

Much of Vauxhall’s success during the early years of Vauxhall Motors was due to Laurence Pomeroy. Pomeroy joined Vauxhall in 1906 as an assistant draughtsman, at the age of twenty-two. In the winter of 1907/8, the chief designer F.W. Hodges took a long holiday, and in his absence the managing director Percy Kidner asked Pomeroy to design an engine for cars to be entered in the 1908 RAC and Scottish Reliability Trial, held in June of that year. The cars were so successful that Pomeroy took over from Hodges.[12]

His first design, the Y-Type Y1, had outstanding success at the 1908 RAC and Scottish 2000 Mile Reliability Trials – showing excellent hill climbing ability with an aggregate of 37 seconds less time in the hill climbs than any other car in its class. With unparalleled speeds around the Brooklands circuit, the Vauxhall was so far ahead of all other cars of any class that the driver could relax, accomplishing the 200 miles (320 km) at an average speed of 46 mph (74 km/h), when the car was capable of 55 mph (89 km/h). The Y-Type went on to win class E of the Trial.

The Y-Type was so successful that it was decided to put the car into production as the A09 car. This spawned the Vauxhall A-Type. Four distinct types of this were produced between 27 October 1908 – up to when mass production halted in 1914. One last A-Type was put together in 1920. Capable of up to 100 mph (160 km/h), the A-Type Vauxhall was one of the most acclaimed 3-litre cars of its day.

Two cars were entered in the 1910 Prince Henry Trials, and although not outright winners, performed well, and replicas were made for sale officially as the C-type – but now known as the Prince Henry. During the First World War, Vauxhall made large numbers of the D-type, a Prince Henry chassis with de-rated engine, for use as staff cars for the British forces.

After the 1918 armistice, the D-type remained in production, along with the sporting E-type. Pomeroy left in 1919, moving to the United States, and was replaced by C.E. King. In spite of making good cars, expensive pedigree cars of the kind that had served the company well in the prosperous pre-war years were no longer in demand: the company struggled to make a consistent profit and Vauxhall looked for a major strategic partner.

 

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