Ellesmere Port faces decision on future

Vauxhall’s vehicle manufacturing plant at Ellesmere Port in northwest England is facing an imminent announcement on its future, reports suggests.

The factory makes the current Astra model, but Vauxhall parent company Stellantis has yet to decide on whether to make the next generation model at the Ellesmere Port plant. The plant employs around 1,000 people directly and has been operating on a single shift in recent years.

Media reports in the UK suggest that the UK government has been involved in talks with Stellantis over the future of the plant. However, a Stellantis board meeting this week failed to come to a decision, though one is expected within days.

Stellantis is said to be concerned over potential conditions for electric vehicle production at the plant – particularly in the light of the UK government’s decision to ban sales of ICE light vehicles in Britain from 2030.

Future battery production capacity in Britain could also be a factor, especially in the context of post-Brexit trade rules (such as rules of origin) applying to EU market exports.

Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares said last month that the 2030 date for ending ICE sales in the UK jeopardised the business model applying to the plant.

Other options for the plant are said to include wind-down ahead of 2030.

The next generation Astra model for 2022 – on a whole new platform, shared with PSA models – has been confirmed to be built at Ruesselsheim (Germany), with PSA suggesting at various times over the past year that it wants Ellesmere Port to be the second European plant making it.

One further problem for the plant is a long-term decline in the European market for C-segment hatchbacks such as the Astra, meaning that plant volumes for such models are much lower than they would have been twenty years ago, making a switch to an as yet unspecified future electric vehicle a more important consideration.

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