General Motors Europe’s decision to withdraw requests for loan guarantees from European governments will allow its British arm to “change up a couple of gears”, according to Vauxhall’s new managing director, Duncan Aldred. It will also improve the chances of the Ampera being built in the UK.
Until last week, GM chief Nick Reilly had been seeking guarantees worth £1.5bn from the UK, German, Austrian, Belgian, Spanish and Polish governments to help weather the recession.
But he unexpectedly dumped the entire plan after the German government signified its unwillingness to help. The process was taking too long, he said, and business conditions were improving.
Aldred, speaking exclusively to Autocar, said: “This decision means we can change up a couple of gears and forge ahead with exciting plans for new product.”
He listed the new Smart-sized “Junior” as one of the forthcoming projects, and cited “more electric options” within the Vauxhall line-up. “Our plan has some great surprises,” he said.
The Ellesmere plant, currently GM’s top European plant for quality and productivity, is about to begin making the Astra Sports Tourer on three shifts a day for Europe-wide sales. Vauxhall bosses believe the plant is the logical home for production of the Ampera plug-in hybrid saloon. Aldred said the facility “stands a very good chance” of landing the manufacturing deal.
Vauxhall is this week using an Ampera prototype for a highly publicised drive from Luton to Ellesmere Port, where it will be symbolically driven on to the production line.
“If government support for electric car sales, taxation and charging infrastructure continues at the current pace, the UK will be the lead market for electric vehicles in Europe,” said Aldred.