Question marks have been raised over the future of Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port factory with a decision on its fate expected within weeks.
Britain’s upcoming 2030 ban on pure petrol and diesel cars is being cited as one of the main reasons why the outlook for the Cheshire factory – which builds the Astra – is in doubt.
The historic British brand now comes under the Stellantis umbrella thanks to the merger of its previous owner, Groupe PSA, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles this week.
The merger sees more than 14 brands come together, making it the fourth-largest car company in the world.
New Stellantis chief executive Carlos Tavares is expected to reveal a bold and ambitious plan which will see how technology can be shared across the brands.
However, particularly for the European marques of Peugeot, Citroen, Fiat, Opel and Vauxhall, the new company has inherited a large number of factories all based in Europe.
Governments can ‘create situations which destroy the business model’, Tavares told a press conference yesterday (Jan 19), as Stellantis floated on the New York Stock Exchange.
He said: ‘If we are told that in 2030 internal combustion engines cannot be sold in the UK – which we respect as a decision from the country – then we are not going to invest in internal combustion engines anymore because that makes no sense.
‘It depends also on the UK government’s willingness to protect some kind of automotive industry in its own country.
‘That means that we are going to work on other directions, and then we see if there is a business model for the other directions.’
He added: ‘If you change brutally the rules and if you restrict the rules for business, then there is at one point in time a problem.
‘The more we put stringent objectives on the automotive industry, the more you get close to that limit.’
Tavares said that ‘from a pure logistic perspective’ it could make more sense to focus investment in electric car manufacturing in the EU rather than the UK, because it sells more of the vehicles in the former.
But he added: ‘It depends also on the UK government’s willingness to protect some kind of automotive industry in its own country.’
He said the firm is ‘reviewing those different scenarios’ and expects to make a decision about the Ellesmere Port plant ‘within a few weeks’.
Tavares pledged that ‘we will not shut down plants as a consequence of the merger’, but noted that companies have an ‘ethical responsibility… to make the appropriate decisions’ if a country is ‘putting so many barriers (up) that there is no room to find something that creates value’.
The question mark over Ellesmere Port’s future comes after the factory had lost half a day’s worth of work last week because of shortages of vital semiconductors.
Vauxhall’s Luton van-making plant also faced disruption because of post-Brexit delays at ports, said The Times.
Last week, Honda also said it will have to halt production at its Swindon factory for a week due to a global supply shortage.