Tim Tozer
Tim Tozer - new man at the helm of Vauxhall
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Tim Tozer
Tim Tozer:  good news with 23 new models and 12 new engines from Vauxhall over the next two years

VAUXHALL, part of General Motors Europe and in 2009 so close to being included in a distress sale by its then-broke and despairing GM parent, is back on the road towards profitability.

So, who is Tim Tozer?

  •  Chairman and managing director of Vauxhall Motors and CEO Opel Ireland since February 2014.
  • Joined Vauxhall from Autobinck, the Dutch based importer and retailer.
  • Formerly led Mazda in the UK and Mitsubishi in Europe.

Recent media speculation  that it may move into the black in 2015 is unrealistic, Vauxhall’s chairman of six months, Tim Tozer, has told Business Car Manager.

But behind the scenes, Vauxhall and Opel, the main ingredients of GM Europe now that the Chevrolet brand is being withdrawn from the region, are making financial progress and undergoing a cultural transformation happening throughout GM, says Tozer.

And over the next two years the culture shift in particular is expected to make its impact felt increasingly in the marketplace, not least by UK fleets, SMEs and other business users.

“It’s now clear that GM is intending to back the {European} business and the investment taps have been turned back on, with money going into not just new cars but new power trains”, says Tozer, who himself could be seen as emblematic of a GM cultural shift.

He is highly unusual in having been recruited as an outsider to become chairman and MD of Vauxhall Motors and CEO of Opel Ireland, rather than GM following its typical practice of pushing an internal employee a further step up the corporate ladder. “Frankly, I was a bit surprised to get the job”, acknowledges Tozer, whose CV includes MD of Mazda UK and  president and CEO of Mitsubishi Motors Europe.

He makes no bones about Vauxhall and its German counterpart Opel being “on a tough journey to financial sustainability in terms of rising above the breakeven point. That is actually targeted for 2016. OK, there have been hints that it might be earlier. But I have to tell you that in reality next year is a busy and expensive year, launching the new Corsa, the Astra and the new city car (almost certainly invoking the Viva name from Vauxhall’s past, although Tozer will not formally confirm it). Once beyond that (breakeven), the business has to get  to the stage where it can justify the investments made in it.”

Vauxhall’s and Opel’s financial performances are consolidated within GME’s group accounts and the two companies recorded yet another loss, of $844m, last year.

But that was well under half the previous year’s $1.94bn loss and provides some grounds for Tozer’s optimism, as well as at-last expanding markets and the obvious boost likely to be provided by the launch of three new models into Europe’s highly important A,B small cars segments.

Just as important strategically, there is now a $5.25bn investment programme  in place for the next two years  aimed at bringing to market some 23 new models and half as many new engines.

In terms of UK market share, where Vauxhall has been creeping up on the Blue Oval for years, might all this be enough even to topple Ford from its traditional market leader’s perch?

“I don’t underestimate Ford in the slightest. So I don’t think it’s the greatest idea to say that we’re going to outsell Ford. But can we give Ford a bloody good run for their money? Yes, I think so  – particularly when I think about the three small cars we will have from next year. They will play to slightly different audiences in their own ways and you know how important the A and B segments are in the UK. Currently both Ford and Vauxhall are doing little more than treading  water, with market shares hovering around 13.7 per cent and 11.7 per cent respectively.

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