The testament of ADAM.
Choice, the holy grail of sales. Only sometimes too much is just that and those sales either fail to materialise or the product simply confuses potential purchasers. The story of the Vauxhall/ Opel ADAM bears witness to this.
In the early part of the twenty first century, the small urbane hatchback had quite the following, dominated by the Anglo-German MINI and Italy’s Fiat 500. Opel believed an opening in this hegemony could be prized, not only to take sales but also to revolutionise modes of customisation – targeting an increasingly younger (or maybe younger at heart) audience, employing capital letters to draw even more attention.
Michigan born designer Darren Luke, who had only just left college to join GM, was flown to Rüsselsheim to create a three door city car dubbed ADAM. The car would garner a Red Dot award for design in 2013. Revealed to the world at the 2012 Paris motor show, plans were to sell between forty and fifty thousand per annum in Europe. Dimensionally smaller than the Corsa it was based upon, it was described by its maker as a “stylish with urban chic, funky city runabout”.
ADAM’s shape was attractive; compact, cheeky, fun, vibrant. Four humans could sit comfortably within the Eisenach made 3.7 metre long, 1.72 wide body. Built on the SCCS platform, ADAM weighed just over the tonne, and when those all important flourishes were added, was priced into a higher category, competing with more premium brands.
And so, the options list. Calculators (both numeric and taste-related) at the ready. UK prices began at £11,255 for the JAM, which represented the colourful and fashionable side. Those searching for a more sporting bent could snap up a SLAM, whereas sophisticates would of course sashay over to the GLAM.
Vauxhall Marketing Director, Peter Hope told journalists, “These customers have attitude and want their cars to reflect their personality. They are fashion conscious and place great value on individuality; they don’t just follow trends, they create them.” All very well but Peter appears to have forgotten that buyers and especially younger ones view cars as a fashion accessory – but fashions change and quickly.
ADAM came with standard fit Intellilink, a device that “seamlessly integrates the owners smartphone with the facia mounted touchscreen.” How modern, app-hip and so very 2013. Technology was moving at a pace that vehicles could simply not keep up with. To assist with urban living, ADAM also could be had with self-park, side blind spot assist and a lighter feel to the power steering once the CITY switch was operated. NCAP awarded ADAM four stars.
Outside, ADAM had a possible 61,000 combinations; twelve body colours and twenty variations of alloy wheel. Inside, the cornucopia extended to over 80,000 different headliners, fifteen seats and eighteen interior panels. Don’t forget the option packs too. A veritable nightmare for those writing production-line software, salespeople not up to muster with the GLAM’s nuances or the over eager twenty one year old buyer. Keen to impress, they could easily end up with an ADAM as colourful as the garden of Eden – and just as poisonous.(1)
ADAM’s engines were all initially in-line four cylinders, petrol powered. From launch, 1.2 litres got you 70 bhp and 85 foot pounds. The 1.4 had two trims; 86 and 99 bhp, both with 96 torques. All three had relatively high CO2 outputs, an increasingly tricky issue. From 2014, the ADAM received probably its most astute option – the three cylinder 998cc turbo. Again, two trims could be had, 89 or 113 bhp with both developments making impressive figures of 125 foot pound, 120mph capability and the all important 99 grams of monoxide. Road tests considered this rev-happy mill as peppy, offering enough zest to punch through the urban sprawl.
Style however appeared to be very much over substance. ADAM was marked down for its lack of driving feel, sluggish four pot engines and even with Vauxhall’s own steering and suspension design tweaks for Blighty’s troubled tarmac, testers were less than impressed. Punters were though; those targets being achieved with 100,000 shifted in ADAM’s first two years on sale. 2015 saw sales peak at 55,278 followed by gentle declines into the mid forties. Just over 31,000 were made in the final year of production, 2019. The end total was just shy of 330,000.
Realising that over 80% of sales would to be private individuals(2), hopes were that those businesses with an eclectic, youthful approach might choose to advertise their products by use of ADAM. However, the (one example) estate agents of this sceptred isle had already chosen their mainly German rivals over the Griffin; Audi A1s, MINIs, BMW Einers and Mercedes A-Classes were in the ascendancy.
The author’s singular view of a letting agents ADAM in red plastered with more information than a sign writer’s van is hardly representative but just part of the eventual unravelling of not only ADAM but the small, city car as a whole.
Buyers became tempted by the loftier view. Twinned with manufacturers making ever-smaller profits from their smallest wares, ADAM faced a closing market. You could spec an ADAM making it not only jolly but tasteful. Something that few (if any) of the aggressive hoodlums of the SUV gangs offer. ADAM became forbidden fruit in early 2019. Used versions can still be had of course but it is doubtful we’ll witness anything quite so pleasingly small wearing a Vauxhall or Blitz (or even a Bitter) badge anytime soon.
(1)Also available from 2014 was the ADAM Rocks, Rocks Air and S. These versions sported suspension raised some 15mm above a standard ADAM, with the Air version having a foldable fabric roof.
(2) A former work colleague had a GLAM; black body, white roof, she named it Guinness. Cream leather inside, it was a delight to behold.
This link to a typical ADAM owner and enthusiast.