Automotive giant Stellantis starts producing electric vans at the former Vauxhall Astra factory in Ellesmere Port as part of a £130m investment. Tony McDonough reports
Stellantis has started making electric vans at the former Vauxhall Astra factory at Ellesmere Port this week marking a new era for the factory.
Located close to the River Mersey, the plant will produce 50,000 electric vans a year under the Vauxhall, Opel, Peugeot, Citroën and Fiat badges. It represents a £130m investment in the Cheshire site.
First opened almost 60 years ago, a dark cloud had hung over the site for several years and hundreds of jobs had been lost. Former owner, French Group PSA, said Brexit had put the facility at risk. However, PSA completed a £40bn merger with Fiat Chrysler.
This enlarged business became Stellantis and its brands include Peugeot, Citroen, Fiat, Chrysler, Jeep, Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Vauxhall.
In July 2021 Stellantis announced the factory would cease to assemble the Vauxhall Astra and would instead produce a new generation of electric vans. The decisions safeguarded the future of the plant and around 1,100 jobs.
In May 2022 it secured planning consent to build a 670,000 sq ft facility at its Ellesmere Port complex in a joint venture with Stoford Properties. Stellantis will use the facility for the storage and distribution of auto parts.
This new hi-tech incarnation of the factory will include robots carrying 50-kilowatt-hour batteries. These are assembled on site using cells from China. They will give the vans a range of 175 miles on a single charge.
Similar to Jaguar Land Rover on the opposite side of the Mersey, Stellantis is now joining the rush to go electric. As part of the UK’s commitment to decarbonisation, the Government is banning the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2035.
Ellesmere Port plant director Diane Miller, told The Guardian this week: “We don’t have to worry any more about whether we’ll change away from the internal combustion engine. We’re there.”
Since 1985 the factory has produced more than 4m Vauxhall Astras and is now at the forefront of the future direction of the automotive industry.