The long-term future of the Ellesmere Port plant has been in doubt for some time, with Carlos Tavares, the boss of Vauxhall’s parent company, PSA Group, saying that it needed to close the cost and quality gap to the group’s other European plants in order to survive.
But PSA, which also owns the Citroën, DS and Peugeot brands, has now confirmed that it is planning for the facility near Liverpool to be one of two European manufacturing locations for the next-generation Astra, alongside Opel’s Russelsheim plant in Germany. The current model is built at Ellesmere Port and Opel’s Gliwice facility in Poland.
The next-generation Astra will be built on PSA's EMP2 platform and, as part of the firm's electrification programme, will include an electrified version. The machine is due to go into production in 2021.
PSA said it had been “working hard” to turn around Vauxhall’s fortunes and the decision over Ellesmere Port “demonstrates the continuous effort and commitment of Groupe PSA to Vauxhall Motors”.
However, PSA said the plan to build the Astra at its UK facility was not set in stone. “The decision on the allocation to the Ellesmere Port plant will be conditional on the final terms of the UK’s exit from the European Union and the acceptance of the New Vehicle Agreement, which has been negotiated with the Unite Trade Union,” it said.
PSA didn't specify exactly what Brexit terms it was seeking, although it is likely to focus on frictionless and tariff-free trade between the UK and the EU. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has continued to lead calls from the car industry to secure a tariff-free trade agreement and for the Government to rule out a no-deal Brexit.
Ellesmere Port opened in 1962 on the site of RAF Hooton Park, initially producing the Viva. It later produced the Chevette, and in 1980 it became the first Vauxhall plant to produce and export Opel-branded cars to Europe. The Astra has been produced there since 1981, and the plant was also the production base for the larger Vectra.