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History of General Motors

GM MotorsWhen many people hear of General Motors, they think of a US company that makes cars for the US i.e. big Chevrolets that are seen on films travelling down Route 66. What people often don’t realise, though, is that the company has also made a large contribution to the UK industry too – in peace time, war time and even on the football pitch.

General Motors paid a staggering (both then and now) $2.5m for Vauxhall, the classic British car company based in Luton, in November 1925 and gradually began changing the company’s image. Within six years of the takeover the accessibly priced Vauxhall Cadet was introduced, as was the Chevrolet based Bedford truck – varieties of which we still see on the roads today.

During the Second World War, Vauxhall’s production line in Luton ground to a halt but only to allow the facilities to be used to produce the Churchill tank, which was put into full production just a year after a sample model had been built. General Motors’ Luton plant built over 5,600 Churchill tanks – as well as around 250,000 lorries for use in the war.

Post war, production resumed – in both Luton and Ellesmere Port too. The stable grew: Viva, Firenza, Carlton and Cavalier were all popular models that came off the General Motors production line in the UK, as did the first edition of models that we still see on the streets today – Astras, Novas and Omegas. Royal Warrants also came in 1967 and later in 1994 – recognition of the Vauxhall brand being a supplier to the Queen and then HRH Prince Philip and also a sign of being a true British brand.

While Luton – which is Vauxhall Motors’ traditional UK home – is no longer home to car production (it ceased in 2002), General Motors’ Ellesmere Port production line is still running and is a sizeable employer. Luton remains the headquarters for Vauxhall and commercial vehicles (for GM, as well as other manufacturers) are still produced in the Bedfordshire town under the IBC Vehicles umbrella.

There is no doubt that General Motors has played a significant role in the UK economy since acquiring Vauxhall in 1925. 3,000 of the firm’s 202,000 global employees are UK based with a 15% market share of the UK vehicle market (384,000 GM vehicles were sold in the UK in 2008). Aside from providing vehicles for the nation and building tanks used for defending the nation in World War Two, GM has also provided a slightly leftfield contribution to UK life. In 1963 workers at Ellesmere Port founded Vauxhall Motors FC, which – probably in part due to the company size – has turned out to be a bit more than just a work football team.

‘The Motormen’ became semi-professional and in 2002-2003 reached the second round of the FA Cup. Alas, much the same way as many people would say the UK’s car manufacturing industry has declined, so Vauxhall Motors FC went the same way. The club announced in March this year that this season would be the club’s last, due to spiralling costs and low attendances.

Vehicle production at Ellesmere Port, though, will of course continue to play its part in providing jobs and vehicle production. In 2012 the company pledged to create 700 new jobs, taking the total to around 2,800.  

Motoring News  08/07/2014 10:50:31

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