Archive : Unipart factory may close

OXFORD MAIL
Unipart factory may close

Motor parts group Unipart is to shut its factory off Woodstock Road, Oxford, and move production to new state-of-the art plants. In all, 420 people work at Oxford Automotive Components, which will be run down by 2001. Unipart says it will offer jobs to all employees at other factories.

Production will be phased out and the 27-acre site sold off – possibly for as much as £100m. Factory staff learned the news at a briefing yesterday. The rest of Unipart’s staff were told today and letters were also being sent to people living near the site.

Unipart employs 350 people at the plant, with 70 more from a variety of contractors. A spokesman said: “It’s not job losses but a move in production to modern plants and at the same time opening up a major chunk of land. “Our expectation is that all those employees who wish to remain in the group will have a job.”
He said the factory made steel fuel tanks and there had been a dramatic switch to plastic fuel tanks in cars.

“We have set up a new joint venture factory in Coventry to make plastic fuel tanks, so we will still maintain our place in the market.

“We have always said we were committed to maintaining a manufacturing presence in Oxford and to that end we have got our new joint venture factory at Cowley, which will be opened later this year.

“That will be making exhaust and chassis components and catalytic converters, and We expect people at the Woodstock Road factory to transfer to it. The skills needed are the same.”

The spokesman said the firm hoped for increased business following the news that Rover had confirmed its new luxury car, codenamed R40, would be built at Cowley, and Honda’s announcement that it planned to step up its UK production to 250,000 cars a year at Swindon.

The Woodstock Road factory made parts for Spitfires during the Second World War, as well as radiators for cars. The spokesman added: “When we took it over it was in a quite dreadful state. We spent a lot of money on the plant and the paintshop to make it a world-class factory.”

Keith Adams
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