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Vauxhall Ellesmere Port ‘saved’ say reports
The decision, expected to be confirmed following a final ballot of staff this morning, will be thanks to the employees who have worked with the company, accepted new conditions and been rewarded with a big boost in production.
Ellesmere Port will become one of two homes for Astra production in Europe, building more cars than it has done for years and working round the clock in order to meet demand.
It’s a fantastic tribute to staff and unions, showing how they can work with a company to achieve a common goal.
BRITISH SKILLS REWARDED
The British GM employees have proven they can build quality cars over the years.
A meeting with Vauxhall MD Duncan Aldred back in January revealed some fascinating facts. Ellesmere Port is considered world class by GM in key areas, he told us. It has achieved records that sit near the top of GM’s worldwide rankings.
It is, in short, considered and acknowledged to be one of GM’s best performing plants in Europe. The UK is “a good place to be”, he said. Today, it will continue to be.
GM’S EUROPEAN MASTERPLAN
The risks for Ellesmere Port’s future were that the fact British workers can arguably be dismissed more easily than German workers, coupled with the political sensitivity of closing a factory in Germany, would have seen Ellesmere Port become the undeserving scapegoat.
But GM has shown common sense here too. A current Astra production site (and the home of Opel), Russelsheim, is now expected to produce the Zafira Tourer. Bochum, one of its least efficient plants, currently produces the people carrier models and it is this facility that’s now in doubt.
However, it too could yet be saved by a separate plan to bring some Chevrolet production from South Korea over to Europe. Chevrolet is booming in Europe and needs a base here to start building cars locally: GM’s masterplan could thus keep everyone happy AND serve the business well.
THE CARS ELLESMERE PORT WILL NOW BUILD
Ellesmere Port currently produces the Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer estate. The vast majority – 9 in 10 – are exported to Europe.
The new three-shift plan will see further variants added to the production line: the five-door Astra or the three-door Astra GTC. The final decision will be made in coming years in the build-up to the 2015 Astra.
There’s more. GM wants to build the Vauxhall Ampera and its Chevrolet Volt sister car here in Europe. These cars are based on the Astra platform. Could Ellesmere Port thus also secure the current Car of the Year?
Time will tell there – but it wouldn’t be out of step with green plans that have already see Nissan confirm Leaf production and Toyota already build the Auris Hybrid here.
GM REWARDS UK MARKET STRENGTHS
In making today’s decision, GM could have been influence by something else. Its market share in the UK is 12 per cent, the highest in Europe. In Germany, its share is around 7.5 per cent.
Brits like Vauxhalls and they are our second-favourite brand of all. The Astra is a top-four best-seller. Loyalty to the brand in one of GM’s biggest European markets is strong. Now, our workers will be rewarded for this.
This could have proven more influential than current currency market advantages, that today means it is more profitable to produce cars in the UK and export them to Europe. This is due to differences in the exchange rate between Sterling and the Euro.
It perhaps won’t last forever. Sure, it would have influenced GM – as would the possibility of Government grants – but it wouldn’t have secured the final decision.
No, Britain’s love of Vauxhall and expert British workers’ willingness to review working practices will instead have been key in guaranteeing their future.
Common sense has prevailed. When the announcement comes later this morning, it will be a credit to GM and show it has assessed the facts, not the political pressures, to give British Vauxhall workers the future they richly deserve.
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