New Vectra, New Rules
Just what's so prestigious about prestige blue? That's the question actor Ed Harris asks his fictional legal team in a recent ad for Vauxhall's new Vectra. Did I say new? Hmmm. That's the whole point of the campaign: to establish that the Vectra is a brand new car, rather than a mild revamp of an established model. Ed's character is charged with proving the point to a jury.
Why, I have no idea. Vauxhall don't sell the Vectra in the lawsuit-crazed US of A. The car's UK customers—a curious amalgam of fleet buyers, Griffin worshippers and die-hard Pringle wearers— are not the litigious type. Should their new Vectra fail to exceed the low standards set by the previous model, they're more likely to have a quiet word with their dealer or, worst case, write a strongly worded letter to the Area Manager. Mustn't grumble you know.
Still, you can't dispute the inherent interest of a courtroom drama. Why should Ford buyers—watching the progress of the Explorer tyre debacle and looking forward to the Crown Victoria police car conflagration—have all the fun? I can't wait to find out whether an American actor famous for saving the crew of Apollo 13 from a one-way ticket into the infinite blackness of space can accomplish the same feat for GM's European marketing executives.
Meanwhile, I'm a little confused about the campaign's tag line: "New Vectra. New rules." A supporting ad in The Sunday Times explains that the Vectra's Interactive Driving System sets "new rules for ride and handling". While I'm glad that Vauxhall has finally recognized the need for a car to interact with the driver, I'm wondering why they used the word "rules" instead of "standards". Is the new rule for ride and handling "Should the driver wish to corner quickly, the Vectra will do its level best to prevent nausea"?
I wouldn't know. I haven't driven the "new" car. Nor have I drive the old. I'd like to— if only to keep the mileage down on my M5. But I don't think it's going to happen. I did everything I could to convince Vauxhall to lend me a VX220 sports car (leaving 20 messages over a month and a half) and only to be bitch slapped by their Press Department. Anyway, it's hard to imagine that a GM family four-door is going to re-write the rulebook for what a car should and should not do.
Which is a shame. Despite the fact that I spend most of my day lusting after, ligging, driving and slating high-speed niche exotica; I have nothing but admiration for the engineers charged with building innovative cars for the mass market. The Big Boys may have enormous budgets and vast resources, but I reckon it's more of a challenge to make a Ford Focus handle than a Ferrari. Given the major manufacturer's audience, it's also more important when they create something truly revolutionary.
Which the Vectra clearly is not. Sure, the car offers some lovely kit as standard: rain sensitive wipers (Ouch! You're hurting me!), cruise control, eight-way adjustable seats, a stereo with genuine bass response, full size curtain air bags, etc. The performance and economy of the available engines is, um, admirable. The boot offers between 36 and 51 litres more capacity than the previous iteration of Vauxhall's well-established automotive ode to sales reppery. But c'mon Ed, there's nothing really "new" here.
What about a telemetric system that 'phones the dealership when your car needs servicing? Or a hydrogen-powered Vectra that doesn't weight as much as double-decker bus? I'm sorry Mr. Harris, but turn indicators that get louder as you drive faster on "noisy motorways" doesn't qualify as innovative engineering. (New Rule: Treat All Drivers like Old Age Pensioners.) Hello? Shouldn't the Vectra's interior be quiet enough to hear the indicators at any speed? I don't recall Mercedes' owners complaining about IIV (insufficient indicator volume).
Back to prestige blue then. After all, if the Lads from Luton went to all the trouble to invent a new shade of paint for their car, and Ed risked apoplexy by trying to pronounce the word "prestigious" in front of a film crew, it must be important. It might even be the key to understanding the Vectra's new "rulebook".
Laura from the Vectra toll-free line transferred me to Customer Care. After a bit of saxophone, a warning that my call would be monitored, a plea not to abandon my call, and an opportunity to leave a message (doesn't that classify as "abandonment"?), Jeanette told me that prestige blue is prestigious because "it looks expensive."
And there you have it: The New Rule. Make a mass-market car that seems exclusive. Wait a minute, isn't that the old rule? Isn't the Vectra the same old thing, only a bit better here and there? We the jury find the defendant… guilty as charged.
More by Robert Farago
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