Around 900 people are employed producing the Astra at the Liverpool city region site but French owner PSA says it has lined up an alternative for a new Astra model. Tony McDonough reports
Vauxhall’s owner PSA is already lining up a mainland Europe alternative to Ellesmere Port to produce the new Astra in the event of a damaging Brexit deal.
Casting further doubt on the future of the Liverpool city region factory, which currently employs around 900 people, the chief executive of PSA, Carlos Tavares told the Financial Times that post-Brexit profitability was key to the site’s future.
Fence-based PSA, owner of the Peugeot brand, acquired the Opel and Vauxhall from General Motors Co for £1.9bn early in 2018 to become the second-biggest carmaker in Europe by sales.
Workers at Ellesmere Port currently produce around 140,000 Astras every year and it is hoped they will also assemble the next generation Astra model. But Mr Tavares said: “We have an alternative to Ellesmere Port.
“Frankly I would prefer to put it (the Astra) in Ellesmere Port but if the conditions are bad and I cannot make it profitable, then I have to protect the rest of the company and I will not do it.”
Since Boris Johnson replaced Theresa May as British Prime Minister last week, the Government’s stance towards the EU has hardened with the possibility of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit now growing by the day.
PSA’s current thinking is to produce the new Astra at Ellesmere Port and at another plant in Germany. But the company has long been worried about the impact of Brexit on the viability of the site.
Over the past 18 months there have been hundreds of job losses at the plant as part of an ongoing restructuring plan to make to leaner and more efficient. That programme is ongoing although PSA has committed to avoiding compulsory redundancies.
PSA confirmed on Monday that Ellesmere Port was still its number one choice, along with Russelsheim, for the new Astra but warned that depended on the final terms of the UK’s Brexit deal.
In a statement it said: “PSA Groupe has put in to place a comprehensive ‘no-deal’ contingency plan that covers human resources, taxation, customs, logistics, production, regulation, supply chain and IT.”