The new van provides Luton with long-term security, gives a huge vote of confidence in the plant’s ability to adopt PSA manufacturing and quality standards and potentially opens up opportunities to build other vehicles based on the PSA EMP2 platform, which also underpins the Vauxhall Grandland X.
“This is a very, very important investment for Vauxhall,” said plant director Mike Wright. “In less than two years, the workforce has turned this plant into one of PSA’s ‘European champions’. The amount of change at the plant has just been huge.”
Such accolades are particularly crucial when you consider how under threat Vauxhall's other major plant - Ellesmere Port - has appeared to be in recent months.
Five years ago, Wright guided Autocar through a tranche of £168m of investment that put the revamped Gen-3 Vivaro into production under GM ownership in conjunction with Opel and Renault, securing the Luton plant to 2025.
Like the outgoing Vivaro, it’s front-driven, but, being based on a platform that also supports SUVs, has refinements such as a multi-link rear axle, a more complex electrical system and a panoramic roof option for passenger versions.
Switching to the new platform has required significant changes to the Luton plant layout. The bulk of the investment – £65m – has gone into a new, heavily robotised body-in-white assembly plant for the new platform.
To accommodate the new line, Vauxhall cleared out a cavernous 8000-square-feet underground car park and installed 300 new robots plus assembly jigs and mechanical handling gear capable of pushing out 24 chassis platform underbodies every hour. “With a lot of blood, sweat and tears, we’ve transformed this space and installed and commissioned a whole new chassis line in just 12 months,” said Wright.