News : Vauxhall production stays in the UK

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Vauxhall Astra production remains at Ellesmere Port - a clear message that UK car manufacturing has never been so healthy.
Vauxhall Astra production remains at Ellesmere Port - a clear message that UK car manufacturing has never been so healthy.

Vauxhall car company staff have voted by 94% in favour of a new pay and conditions deal, clearing the way for investment in the Ellesmere Port plant. Owner General Motors will confirm this morning that a new Astra model will be built at the plant, securing about 2100 jobs.

Many people had feared that the Ellesmere Port factory would close in a GM restructuring. Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, told the BBC that no financial inducements were offered to GM. GM’s investment will also mean that hundreds more jobs will be created at the plant as it moves from two shifts to three.

Dr. Cable described the Astra news as “a good story” and said it underlined that the UK was “a good business environment for the motor industry”.

Amid fears that the plant could close, Dr. Cable held top-level talks with GM executives in a bid to secure the factory’s future. These talks involved “making the case that the UK is the place to be”, he said. On subsidies, Dr. Cable said there would be “nothing specific”, other than the general development funds available to all companies.

The decision amounts to a remarkable turnaround in the fortunes of the plant. Vauxhall is the UK arm of Opel, GM’s European unit. Since 1999, Opel has lost $11bn (£7bn), almost a quarter of it during the last two or three years. Last year, Opel lost $750m.

Analysts say that its carmaking capacity is out of step with demand. The company has been working on a restructuring plan for months. Now it is thought that workers in Germany may be hit with the possible closure of GM’s Opel factory in Bochum. Bochum produces 30 cars an hour over three shifts a day. Ellesmere Port produces 47 cars an hour over two shifts a day – a company record.

But Germany could yet benefit from an expected decision to move production of its Chevrolet brand from Asia to Europe.

Workers at the plant have been voting on a new labour deal covering pay and terms and conditions. There will be a new four-year pay deal. Workers will also face a change in normal hours due to the change in shift patterns. It is understood that the plan will keep the plant operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

That will end the long tradition in car manufacturing of plant closures in the summer and during Christmas. The Ellesmere Port plant was thought to be vulnerable because it has traditionally been politically difficult to close plants in mainland Europe.  Analysts also say it is simply cheaper and easier to let workers go in the UK than elsewhere in Western Europe.

However, the willingness of unions and workers at the plant to agree to more flexible working arrangements is thought to have played an important role in GM’s decision, as has the Government’s engagement on the issue in recent months. In February, Dr. Cable flew to the US and met GM’s Chief Executive, Dan Akerson, and Vice-Chairman, Steve Girsky.

He made the case for why GM should invest in the UK for the long term. Sources suggest the meeting may have played an important role in the company’s ultimate decision to back the UK. Although the Government insists that it has not offered the company any up-front cash, there are several sources of money – including the Regional Growth Fund and the advanced manufacturing supply chain initiative – that the company may be able to access.

[Source: BBC]

52 Comments

  1. Brilliant, brilliant news.
    I am very much manufacturing in the UK and hope that there is more news to come from other sectors. I’m sure GM couldn’t have failed to notice increased UK investment from JLR, Nissan, Honda etc.

  2. …I wonder if there are common suppliers for the JLR plant at Halewood and Ellesmere Port?

  3. This is excellent news – congratulations to the workers, unions and government for convincing GM to make the right decision.

    The move of Chevvy production is interesting – does this mean that Vauxhall / Opel and Chevrolet will share platforms going forward.

    If this is the case is there any reason why this production could not go to a third shift at the super efficient Ellesmere Port?

    They still need to wield the axe in Germany though – Especially if the Euro does collapse as this is keeping the German curreny artificially low!

  4. excellant news and an excellant car,the ellesmere plant struggles with u.k sourced components in terms of the locality and “just in time”parts supply they would like govt help in having parts manufactorers situated around the plant.

  5. It would be interesting if SAIC now started to jointly develop platforms with GM Europe to cut costs and go into volume production at Longbridge. If MG could capture the style and panache of JLR at the moment and Mini they could produce desirable cars for Europe with leading technology from GME. Look at how RR Evoque which is based on a Focus platform has added value – a 40k car that must be very cost effective to produce – perceived value is everything. The MG 3,5 and 6 may be OK for China but just are not special enough for Europe/USA. A JV with GME is the way forward for MG in Europe. Lets have a new MG 1100/1300 with some decent style, quality interior trimmed in UK and a diesel engine from Fiat – the 1.3 out of the Panda/500. Then MG would grow from the penny numbers of 6 that are being sold.

  6. Good news for UK manufacturing.
    Are they planning on reimporting it to the US, as they did with the Belgian built Saturn Astra?

  7. @3 its over for the euro,after greece it will be portugal,spain,ireland,italy,france and germany in that order-tenner bet!

  8. @ AndrewP

    I believe they already do share platforms with astra/cruze sharing a platform (rear axle different on cruze in europe, though same in US) Antara/captiva are same vehicle and volt/antara are the same vehicle.

  9. @Alan

    GM have recently tied up with PSA, who are likely to build the next Zafira.
    Could be interesting to see HDis fitted to Vauxhalls…

  10. Good news but possibly a little cynical considering the present euro crisis carries on? It probably helped the decision however.
    Shame its only a screw together operation and not a fully manufacturing site, excellent news for UK though.

  11. It’s a pity we didn’t have the same sense of co-operation in the 70’s, maybe then we would still have a UK owned motor industry.

  12. I live within a few miles of the plant itself.
    I can tell you the whole town is breathing a sigh of relief.
    Its still nice to see trailer loads of ‘Opels’ going off past my gaff to the continent….smiling seeing German cars being made in the Port!
    T

  13. Lets hope the public sector unions and workers take note of this deal.
    Well done guys you have excelled and the whole country will benefit in your altitude to work. The more people like you the better off we will all be.

  14. As seen recently from Jaguar Land Rover, Nissan and Honda. Now with Vauxhall added to the list. This can only mean good news for Britain and the motor industry. Maybe manufacturing in the UK itself could be a solution to re-build the economic climate.

  15. Not sure why the Euro crisis is claimed to be the plants saviour. The problems in the Eurozone are depressing the value of the currency making sterling stronger. This will make cars more expensive to export from the UK. My understanding is that Ellesmere Port got the nod because of its efficiency. They make 47 cars per hour – A GM record – against 30 cars per hour in Bochum, Germany. The tables are turned. In the 80s Halewoods productivity was way below Saarlouis and quality was so bad Ford would not produce Ghia or XR models in the UK factory.

  16. This is very good news and as with other vehicles made in this country, I really hope that British consumers will show some conscience and start supporting the workforce of Ellesmere Port with their wallets.

  17. Great news for EP, the workers and the local (and possibly national) economy. The Astra is a great seller across Europe and the Ellesmere Port factory has shown that it can nail them together consistently and pretty well.

  18. Mark S @ 11:

    I’m happy to report that you’re mistaken; Vauxhall, at Ellesmere Port, is genuinely involved with manufacturing:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zVBVikra8o4&feature=related

    Honda probably has the most serious commitment to car manufacturing at its UK plant (even including a foundry), but GM can stand proud with the likes of JLR, Toyota, Nissan and BMW in having proper manufacturing bases here in the UK.

  19. Great news, good to see that manufacturing has a future in the uk, rather than continual out sourcing. If only we could get the same sort of approach adopted at Longbridge we would really be in business. Well done GM!

  20. Excellent news keeping Ellesmere Port vauxhall going on as its the 50th year anniversary since it opened and production of the Viva in 1964.

    Apart from vans being assembled its a shame the Luton plant don’t built any cars of the Vauxhall or GM range that stopped 8 years ago after its 100th centenary year.

    Ellesmere Port is also twined with Reutlingen Germany I dont think Opel have a plant there.

  21. Brilliant news, and a fitting tribute to the loyal Vauxhall staff who have worked hard to make production there efficient. I do however also hold the view that the Euro crisis has some influence – but if it keeps Brits in work, and keeps revenue in the UK, I hope that more multi-national manufacturers follow GM’s philosophy – there has to be some benefit in keeping the pound!

  22. I’m really pleased to hear this. It does seem that GM likes us at the moment. Faith in the van plant in Luton, and now Ellesmere Port. I also think keeping the quid has helped too, as it is looking increasingly likely that the Euro is going to go bang before much longer (with plenty of I told you so’s from Britain). Ditching the old Daewoo ops, and moving them to Germany may improve quality, and safeguard their jobs too. GM seem to be thinking straight at last!

  23. And SAIC take note. Stop importing Airfix kits to be glued together by half a dozen Brummies, and build the whole bloody cars here. You might sell more than 3 a week then!

  24. Excellent news, it’s notable that last month the UK motor industry actually had a trade surplus!

    GM have put a lot of money into the Vauxhall brand, currently sponsoring the football teams of all 4 home nations, and the UK is a major market (their second largest in Europe?) so maintaining a British manufacturing base is a key part of this – Vauxhall as a brand would have been pointless without a UK car plant.

  25. Excellent news following on from the investment and expansion at Mini, Honda, JLR, Nissan and Toyota.

    So very different to the anti-car Blair / Brown years which saw them turn the opportunity for the Toyota Yaris factory and the multibillion pound modernisation of Longbridge.

  26. So the German GM plant produces 10 cars per shift and the English GM plant produeces 22.5 cars per shift. That’s quite a disparity. I’d guess the wage bill varies between plants too.

    Insightful comment from Daily Mail reader Bob about public sector workers too.

  27. Congratulations from Germany! It’s really good to hear that the Astra stays in the UK! Anyway, I think it’s difficult to compare German plant Bochum with Ellesmere Port, because Bochum is home of the Zafira, not the Astra.
    At the moment Opel workers in Germany live with great feelings of unsureness. I live in Ruesselsheim, where Opel has it’s German headquartes – and it’s probably the most modern Opel production site with capacities for Insignia and the Astra on one line. And in fact, not Bochum will lose Astra production but Ruesselsheim will. Lots of people now think that in 2014/2015 Zafira-production will move to Rüsselsheim – and Bochum will be finally closed in 2015. Which means that 3,200 workers will lose their jobs. It’s quite a bitter feeling to see how GM/Opel-management now pits workers and union in Ruesselsheim against those in Bochum.

  28. It’s tough on any worker losing their jobs, but all this is an inevitable consequence of the slowdown in European sales combined with all the new plants opened (especialy in Eastern Europe. )
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opel
    The Opel Wiki page has a fascinating list of all their factories, which includes 2 in Poland, 1 in Hungary, and 1 in former East Germany, whereas the Vectra plant in Luton closed a few years ago, while Antwerp closed last year.

  29. Good to hear of some stability at Ellesmere Port. The new or should I say current Astra looks a nice car and is getting popular now. I saw quite a few Opel ones in Holland. When changing car next time I will consider it…

    I didnt realise the GM Antwerp plant had closed down – that’s where the first MK1 Cavaliers were built.

  30. Its great news- but GM really needs to pull its finger out and design some market-leading cars. Over the last couple of decades in particular, most newly-launched Vauxhalls have been blandly (or poorly) styled Euroboxes which appeared to have been designed to be ‘almost as good as the outgoing/previous generation Ford models’.

    The traditional carmakers have it tougher than ever, Ford have, since the Mondeo, produced excellent cars that are as good, or better, than their premium priced German equivalents, yet still have to work extra hard to shift them. So a complacent manufacturer such as GM Europe, producting so-so designs (by no means bad cars in any way, just not good enough), can only expect fairly moderate success. What it really needs to do is what Ford did when it introduced the Focus Mk1- a sharply-styled driver’s car that was head and shoulders ahead of the competition. The Focus wasn’t particularly advanced (I think the rear suspension was its only real claim to sophistication) but everything else (bar excessive road noise) was extremely well executed. It even converted non-fans of the Marque to buy one- the Focus 2.0 Ghia was the best car I ever owned.

    Astra? Inginia? Yawn…

  31. “does this mean that Vauxhall / Opel and Chevrolet will share platforms going forward.”

    Well they originally used old GM Europe platforms.

    “And SAIC take note. Stop importing Airfix kits to be glued together by half a dozen Brummies, and build the whole bloody cars here. You might sell more than 3 a week then!”

    Well they wont if they don’t market them.

    “It’s a pity we didn’t have the same sense of co-operation in the 70′s, maybe then we would still have a UK owned motor industry.”

    Shame all the Unite union rep could do was moan and bitch about GM when they interviewed him on the News.

    “Shame its only a screw together operation and not a fully manufacturing site, excellent news for UK though.”

    Well it depends what you mean by screw together, if you discount pressing, welding and painting body shells pretty much all car plants just screw them together.
    The days of massive plants where raw materials come in one end and cars come out the other are long gone. Dagenham and Longbridge were probably the last in Europe. These days it’s in vogue to have engine plants separate so it makes it easier to supply the same ready built engines to other plants or even other manufacturers. A lot more sub assemblies are made off site and delivered ready to bolt into the car than they were say 30 years ago. JLR Dash assemblies are made near Sittingbourne for example. Once they arrive at the assembly plant they’re pretty much just bolted to the car and the electrics are plugged in. Whereas 30 years ago they would have been delivered in component parts and assembled and trimmed at the car plant.

  32. @ Dave C – 10 cars a shift! That would virtually be hand built! – Its 47 cars per hour at Ellesmere Port (approx 375 per shift) vs 30 per hour at Bochum (approx 240 per shift)

  33. Great news that GM picked a UK factory over a German factory,I share Dennis feeling in getting MG6 made here.Regards Mark

  34. Fantastic news,really pleased for the workforce and British car industry in general.Just a shame the English motoring media doesn’t give the ‘Griffin’ the credit it deserves.They know who I mean.

  35. @33 what’s an Inginia??
    The current Focus/Mondeo not a patch on the Astra/Insignia designs,still look fresh 3/4 years on.The fuel flap on the current Focus hatch just looks like an afterthought.

  36. If critisism of the fuel flap is the best that apologists for the Astra and Insignia can do, then the Focus is in a very strong position indeed.

    [The poster of this comment looks in vain for an animated emoticon with a poking-out tongue doing a raspberry, fails to find one, shrugs, and posts it anyway…]

  37. @ Dave C No29
    “Insightful comment from Daily Mail reader Bob about public sector workers too.”
    Spill the beans son what do you mean?

  38. For those who are saying Fords are better than GM rivals: Recent sales figures I saw on MSN website (NOT Honest John polls) say that the Insignia is the best selling car in its range – more than the German rivals, and the Mondeo isn’t even in the top 5.

  39. Fantastic news for the the UK on the whole I think… especially with things the way they are at the moment, we could all do with a bit of good news like this.

  40. Sales figures don’t always reflect whether a car is ‘better’ though. Simply that one is cheaper or offers easier payment terms.

    Have to say i can’t see a great deal of difference between the Insignia and the Mondeo, or Focus and Astra.

    Fiesta and Corsa though, the Fiesta wins hands down.

  41. @39 The Vauxhalls are far the better looking and more complete designs over the rather odd looking creases and angles that appear on the Fords, but on the actual feel and quality of the cars the Fords are better. The Astra is not exactly class leading in the handling stakes, has a rather gruff diesel and the quality of the plastics are rather poor. One of the directors of my employer was going to replace his wifes old 99 plate Astra with the new one but felt it was just cheap and di not buy one.

    The funny thing is GM have been notoriuos over the years for going safe. Look at its history, since the Chevy Corvair, it has gone safe in both design and engineering, as it does not want to have the bad publicity that they had back then. If it had not been for this car though how safe would today’s motors been?

  42. I think model for model the vx range has the most cohesive design language as for handling,its only fine points we are talking about not a ’58 velox with loose steering box,the insignia is a sell out hit compared to a mondeo and a corsa looks far funkier than a fiesta the focus just looks bland,a shame because the MK1 looks sharp now.

  43. I think the problem is most cars handle really well these days, even the cheapo ones. So where as 25 years ago the Mini handled like a go-cart and a big merc estate like a barge, the gap has narrowed an awful lot these days. So when people say car X handles better than Car Z, we’re still only talking a fraction of a second on a lap of Silverstone.

  44. GM have dropped the ball with the current Corsa, and several people who I know were ‘died in the wool Griffin buyers’ are now buying Fords. GM’s diesel tech is lagging behind at the moment, but Ford used their loaf & did the deal with PSA, who lets face it, make the best oil burners out there. GM still don’t fully have the handling sorted, but Ford have had that licked for years. The Mondeo, has just become a bit too bland though now, & the Focus has lost it’s crispness of styling.

  45. “GM’s diesel tech is lagging behind at the moment, but Ford used their loaf & did the deal with PSA, who lets face it, make the best oil burners out there”

    I agree with you, although i did have a Combo van last year with the 1.7 CDTi Ecotec and there wasn’t a lot wrong with it engine wise. Used hardly any fuel despite the thrashing i was giving it. It was still smooth and went like a rocket, the older DTI ones were awful though.

  46. I dont think there is alot wrong with the GM/FPT diesel engines the 1.3 is fairly smooth and quiet,the Isuzu designed 1.7 even now with common rail is an old design but useful,i think the problems are down to software as was the case with the 1.3 CDTI combo/corsa and 20k service interval on 3.5litres of engine oil.Fiat and bosch developed the common rail system years ago,ok,the peugeot made the best diesels in the world-the XUD but like everyone else now they have thier problems,fiestas and 207’s with injector seals failing and chuffing fumes into the cabin in as little as 13k,2.7 disco’s with turbo failure or even worse chains going.Not surprisingly we had doblos on our fleet with 10k intervals without any major failure and our national engineering director wonders why.Nothing is bombproof like it used to be.

  47. With regard to Francis’s comments, diesel has become too clever for its own good and the masses of electronics and green technology, not to mention the price disadvantage against petrol in Britain, spells trouble. I would much rather have something like a Fiat twin air engine against a modern TDi any day.

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