Vauxhall’s new Ampera, the Europeanised plug-in hybrid closely related to the forthcoming Chevy Volt, will eventually be built at Ellesmere Port in the UK, if newly installed GM Europe chief Nick Reilly gets his way.
First versions of the Ampera, due to reach Britain during 2011, will be built in the US, about a year after the Chevy version hits the road in the US.
“Whether we make the Ampera depends on the volume it generates,” says Reilly. “At this stage, that’s hard to predict, especially since we haven’t yet priced the car. But I would definitely like to make the car in Europe, and I think Ellesmere Port has a good chance of being the place we choose.”
According to newly announced plans, GM Europe aims to cut about 20 per cent of its production capacity across Europe - and 10,000 of its 50,000 jobs - but believes it can be making “solid” profits by 2012, on a lower cost base and a total Opel/Vauxhall volume of just under a million cars a year.
GM Europe will make “at least” the range of models it does now, says Reilly.
“Two of our main global architectures have been developed in Europe, and we think the importance of our design, engineering and R&D here will be maintained. What could change is the proportion of ‘local DNA’ we build into regional versions of our major models - and that may need a little more local engineering. We may also make slightly bigger mid-life changes to design and specification in future. But these are changes of emphasis, not fundamentals.”
Reilly also expects greater interchange between GM’s remaining four US and European brands.
“Could an Opel be something else in the US? We’re definitely open to that. We’re four brands now, not eight, and we have a lot of planning to do. But I can see more interchange than before, and that might mean us aligning US models into the European market, too.”