Motor Mutterings: Top Gear and the Vauxhall Astra

Mike Humble:


It came, it went and now my Sundays have lost their true meaning…

Of course, I am talking about Top Gear on BBC2 – its finished another series and boy what a series finale it was showcasing all the British made metal. I have heard one or two negative comments about that soul stirring televisual treat especially regarding who owns the firms who supplied the plethora of bikes, cars, commercials and even ride on lawn movers. Who cares who owns what and lets just remain happy that we still produce a hell of a lot of vehicles here in Blighty.

It was also nice to see a Brit motor in the ‘Star in a reasonably priced car’ with the current Astra produced by General Motors at the Merseyside Ellesmere Port plant. But again, remarks have been banded about regarding the usage of the Astra – and I don’t understand why. Vauxhall are the last remaining producer of motor cars for the volume sector that are seen as British with Luton ceasing passenger car production way back in 2002 – Ford and Rover are long gone so far as car production is concerned.

Personally, I have never shouted from the rooftops but I am a secret fan of Vauxhall and have been for many years. So far to say that my first work ‘experience’ back in Secondary School days was at my local family run GM dealer in 1987 with an evocative mix of Astra GTE’s and SRi Mk2 Cavaliers. Later in adulthood living in the County town of Bedford, some drinking buddies and acquaintances worked 16 miles down the A6 in Luton assembling and producing the various cars for the GM network.

One theme I recall was how many workers felt like they worked for a family business despite being part of a huge American corporation. Staff turnover was low and I never spoke to anyone who loathed working there – in truth, I actually felt quite jealous now and again. Knowing a middle manager who worked there, a sneaky tour of the plant was offered during a tooling re-fit. The Luton plant was no where near as epic as Rovers Longbridge site in full cry, but it felt modern and efficient. A few years later it was gone!

A visit to the Heritage Museum in Luton confirms the same thoughts as many retired workers preserve and restore a tidy collection of Vauxhall heritage cars mainly out of sheer love of the brand. When I sold Vauxhall cars a few years back, customers would often buy out of brand loyalty and would not consider any other brand but in the wider scale – is Vauxhall the UK’s most hated brand? Even the Top Gear presenters seem to have mocked the Astra from the first outing on the Dunsfold Aerodrome track.

Whatever the case may be, its a UK produced car with a perceived UK brand and that ought to be something to be proud of – after all, Vauxhall are the only brand of UK origin that still sells into the high volume market sector. All in all I feel a little saddened that nothing seems to have been learned from past events like Ford withdrawing from UK car production and the collapse of MG-Rover. We mock and snipe at our car makers when they are here and bemoan the happening when they retrench.

Does patriotism actually exist any more?



  1. Is hating car makers from your own country a sort of defense mechanism? After all, a pessimist is never disappointed…

    Personally I feel pretty good about our car making prospects at present-I have done since the XF came out.

  2. I’ve noticed that Vauxhall is the latest marque that we love to hate and that’s sad as it never used to be, unless that is you were a Ford person.
    In my humble opinion the latest incarnation of the Astra is rather handsome, certainly the best since the lovely ‘modern’ Mk2! If I were in the market for a modern to replace my much loved Mk1 Cavalier Sportshatch I’d definitely be giving the Astra GTC a damned good looking at.

  3. It’s such a shame – they’ll be happy if they could turn the nation against Vauxhall, close the factory, then moan that we don’t make things any more.

    I understand that they (TG) need to be self-promoting and contraversial but they really do need to apply the power that they have towards something rather more constructive.

    As an aside, I’m seriously considering buying an Astra as a run-about for the missus. 2.0 diesel, 160bhp, 0-60 in 8.5 secs, 50mpg, Elite spec (leather and everything), 12 plate, £23k retail, £12.5k from a franchised dealer. Seems like a steal to me….

  4. I am a fan of the Griffin and always have been. I don’t understand the hatred that many Brits hate them – even going so far as putting an Opel badge on them!

    Vauxhall have made bad cars in the past – the Vectra C is a right wrong ‘un but is it any worse than an Audi A4? It doesn’t have the kudos but it isn’t any worse a car. Even Ford has had many dogs in it’s past but they are always put above Vauxhall in the rankings.

    Nope, it saddens and confuses me why many in this country would rather drive German than British…

  5. The Astra has usually been a good car and the Zafira has always been the best MPV. Vauxhall are only missing the snob value of a German Badge. Maybe the next Insignia needs to be badged as an Opel leaving the Astra and Corsa as Vauxhalls. To be fair Ford suffers the same fleet image which BMW and Audi don’t despite being user chooser cars. As a private buyer I would never choose Audi or BMW because they are too common on the roads and a certain type of arrogant person chooses one. But the Brits have no patriotism anymore but their undoing is just around the corner when the money borrowing taps are turned off.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.