GM's Merseyside factory could yet score production of the next Vauxhall Astra
13 December 2006

Vauxhall’s beleaguered Ellesmere Port factory has improved quality and productivity so much in the past six months that it is now competitive with GM’s other plants around Europe, and could yet have a future beyond the current model Astra. The news comes straight from one of GM’s top-ranking executives, and will raise hopes that the plant can secure part of the huge investment in the next-generation Astra, a decision due to be made in the middle of next year.

According to Vauxhall chairman and GM Europe marketing chief Jon Browning, improvements in working practices and productivity after a move to a two-shift working pattern and 1000 redundancies have greatly boosted the plant’s competitiveness. “We are very pleased with the progress at Ellesmere Port,” he told Autocar. “Quality is now absolutely in line with our requirements and the very good relative performance compared to plants across Europe is putting itself in a strong position for the future,” he said.

Browning’s comments will give the workforce at Ellesmere Port (right) a strong boost as they enter a critical year for the plant’s future, which was in doubt as little as twelve months ago.The future of Ellesmere Port is tied to a decision in mid-2007 as to which plants will get the investment for the next-generation Astra, due around 2009/10.

Ellesmere Port is in competition with Bochum in Germany and Antwerp in Belgium. The Belgian plant got a boost last week when it was announced as the source for up to 40,000 Saturn-badged Astras a year to be exported to the US from next autumn. Antwerp was chosen because it makes a full-line of hatchback Astras, including the three-door model not built at Ellesmere Port.

Julian Rendell

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