Vauxhall Motors was founded in 1857 by Alexander Wilson. Starting as Alex Wilson and Company, then Vauxhall Iron Works, the company became Vauxhall Motors in 1907. The first cars were manufactured in 1903.
The Vauxhall badge features a griffin which takes its origins in the coat of arms of Falkes de Breauté, who was a thirteenth century mercenary to king John. As an award for his services, De Breauté received the Manor of Luton. By marriage he also acquired the rights to an area south of London where he built Fulks’s Hall which slowly became Vauxhall. Vauxhall Motors used the name of the area as a reference to their basis even though they moved to Luton in 1905 thereby incidentally taking the griffin emblem ‘home’.
Although initially square, the emblem has been round since the 1920’s show the link with the round Opel badge.
Initially, Vauxhall Motors mainly produced sporting cars but changed to more regular vehicles after World War I.
As early as 1925, Vauxhall Motors was sold to General Motors. The sale led to a change in image and a visible American influence both where appearance and technology are concerned. During World War II, car production was temporarily suspended to allow the company to produce military vehicles instead.
After the war Vauxhall took up car production once more though however it was not very successful until the 1970’s when the Vauxhall Viva became a popular car in Britain. In 1975 Vauxhall launched the Chevette, the British equivalent of the European Opel Kadett and the Vauxhall Cavalier (or Opel Ascona on the European mainland).
These successes and consequent increased market-share allowed Vauxhall to overtake Talbot and later Austin Rover. After having had to to stay a rather long way behind Ford and British Leyland on the British car market, Vauxhall finally became the second most popular make in the UK after Ford in 1989.
In 1995 GM introduced a policy which resulted in all Vauxhall models carrying the same name plates as the Opels. The difference with the latter being that Vauxhalls are right-hand drive cars whereas Opels are left-handed.
During the 2000s Vauxhall continued to close in on market leader Ford especially with the new Astra but also with new generations Corsas and Vectras. The Astra was the second best-selling car in 2005 and 2006 and many police forces in the UK use Astras as their patrol vehicles.
In 2009, due to General Motors filing for bankruptcy, a deal with Magna International was negotiated to sell Vauxhall and Opel to the latter. Though on 3 November 2009 the deal was called off and GM remains Vauxhall’s owner.