Auto giant Stellantis is to convert the Vauxhall factory in Ellesmere Port to produce electric vans in a £100m investment that will safeguard 1,100 jobs. Tony McDonough reports
A new generation of electric vans are to be built at the Vauxhall factory in Ellesmere Port, safeguarding around 1,100 jobs in an £100m investment.
Vauxhall’s parent company, Stellantis, announced the decision on Tuesday and it finally lifts a dark cloud the has been hanging over the plant for several years. It currently produces Astra but plans to build the new model there were scrapped.
In the past couple of years the number of people working at the factory has been cut by more than half as doubts over its future persisted. Those doubts grew in the run up to the UK’s exit from the European Union with then owner, French Group PSA, saying Brexit had put the site at risk.
Late last year PSA, completed a £40bn merger with Fiat Chrysler. The enlarged business is now called Stellantis and its brands include Peugeot, Citroen, Fiat, Chrysler, Jeep, Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Vauxhall.
Earlier this year it as reported that executives from Stellantis had been locked in talks with UK Government officials. It is believed they are seeking state support to convert the plant, which at its peak in 1975 employed 12,000 people, to make electric cars.
Now Stellantis has confirmed the plant, which currently produces around 140,000 Astras a year, will be converted to assemble electric vans, including eight models from delivery vehicles to their passenger derivatives, starting next year.
Stellantis said: “This new era of manufacturing will see a transformation of the Ellesmere Port plant fit for the future, with a new body shop, upgraded general assembly, a compression of the site area and the creation of an on-site battery pack assembly.
“In addition, there will be further support to enable a pathway to carbon neutrality for the plant by the middle of this decade. The plant aims to be 100% self-sufficient for electricity and work will commence imminently on potential wind and solar farms.”
Electric is increasingly the only game in town for carmakers in many parts of the world. From 2030, the UK Government will ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars. Other European are on a similar path.
Chief executive of Stellatis, Carlos Tavares, has already stated the business would not invest in pure diesel or petrol cars at Ellesmere Port. The Jaguar Land Rover factory at Halewood in Merseyside is also being converted to produce electric vehicles.
Last week Japanese auto maker Nissan unveiled an expansion of electric vehicle-making capacity at its plant in Sunderland, creating 1,650 new jobs. That was secured with the promise of unspecified Government support and it is understood a similar arrangement is being put in place to support the future of Ellesmere Port.
However, one expert, Professor David Bailey, an economist at Birmingham Business School, said there were still doubts over the long term future of the Cheshire site due to higher costs.
He told the BBC: “There is there is no battery plant being built in the UK… so if batteries are being brought in from France and elsewhere, that’s going to add to costs and it’s going leave Ellesmere Port as a relatively high-cost location.”