Vauxhall looks increasingly vulnerable after General Motors refused to guarantee the UK-based brand’s future.
GM is looking to offload its European operations, and Fiat is looking like the most serious bidder, but GM’s CEO, Fritz Henderson would not give any assurances as to the part of Vauxhall in the negotiations.
Henderson acknowledged the importance of Vauxhall in a Detroit news conference yesterday, saying: “The UK is our largest market in Europe, we have dealers who do a fantastic job and our plants there have done fantastic work.”
Henderson would not discuss whether Vauxhall would remain tied to Opel, stay in the GM fold, or even disappear altogether. “I won’t go into details what other parties will do or what’s on the negotiating table,” he said.
A spokesman for GM UK refused to be drawn on any details of a possible Vauxhall separation from Opel or GM, but emphasised the importance of the UK market to GM Europe's operation. "The UK is GM's fourth largest global market and its biggest in Europe," he said. "There have been more than 13,000 orders for Insignias in the UK since January, and the British market represents 44 per cent of Vauxhall/Opel's output."
If successful in its bid for GM Europe, Fiat is reported to be planning the closure of manufacturing sites in England and Italy, as well as Opel’s Kaiserslautem engine facility in Germany. The moves could mean the loss of up to 10,000 jobs.
Fiat has denied this, saying that the suggestions do not come from Fiat and are not part of its prepared plans for GM Europe.