David Prosser: Italian lesson for Vauxhall

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The Independent Online

Outlook More bad news for Vauxhall, the GM Europe-owned marque, which has been dumped by the British School of Motoring (BSM) as its supplier of instructors' cars. BSM customers have been learning to drive in Vauxhalls – the Corsa of late – for 16 years, but the driving school is switching to Fiat 500s.

It's not just the loss of a contract to supply BSM instructors that will hit Vauxhall. The school reckons the first car bought by seven in 10 drivers is the model in which they learned, so Vauxhall is now set to miss out on a nicely captive market niche.

Moreover, Fiat pinching the contract says everything about the Italian company's nous compared to the tired strategy of GM Europe. When Vauxhall told BSM it would no longer supply it with free cars, Fiat pounced. Its contract doesn't offer free vehicles either, but Fiat is putting its marketing weight behind BSM, which will help the school update its branding, and offering other sweeteners such as discounts on new cars to drivers who pass their test with its new ally.

Just to cap it all, BSM says one reason it has dropped Vauxhall is that its female customers no longer find its vehicles fashionable. Whoever gets hold of GM Europe in the end has their work cut out to turn the business around.