Electric cars ‘could save’ Ellesmere Port factory

Ministers have been asked to come up with plans to secure the future of the Vauxhall car plant at Ellesmere Port and to promote it as a factory in the vanguard of the electric vehicle revolution.

The future of the Cheshire factory, home of the Vauxhall Astra, has been in doubt since it, along with the rest of the Opel Vauxhall assets in Europe owned by General Motors, was sold to Groupe PSA, the Peugeot and Citroën carmaker. Ellesmere Port’s prospects worsened in the autumn when PSA cut a shift and laid off 400 workers, about a quarter of the labour force.

Justin Madders, the local MP, has pleaded with the government to team up with the motor industry to put together a plan to save the facility.

Ellesmere Port has been one of Britain’s most important car factories over the past 60 years. At its height in the 1970s it employed 12,000 workers.

Groupe PSA employs 180,000 people, many of them in factories in its native France, and has annual revenues of more than €50 billion. It stopped making cars in Britain more than a decade ago and has declined to commit itself to keeping Ellesmere Port open, especially as Astras are also made at a factory in Poland.

Carlos Tavares, PSA’s chief executive, has said that he would be determining the future of Ellesmere Port around now, imploring the British government to clarify its transitional arrangements for the country’s departure from the European Union. Mr Tavares has to make a decision soon because the latest generation Astra is halfway through its seven-year model life cycle and the company needs to plan now on investment from 2021.

Mr Madders, Labour MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston, said that the Local Enterprise Partnership had been working hard to persuade PSA to keep the plant open, but that the time had come for Downing Street to intervene.

He said: “We have been trying to persuade government to bring forward financial incentives.”
He said that the factory could be promoted as a home for Vauxhall, Peugeot or Citroën cars being developed for the hybrid or electric market and added: “There is plenty of money being made available [by the Treasury] for electric vehicles, but that focus has been on investment in charging points or on research and development. We are making the argument that this money should be made available for manufacturing, too.”

Source: The Times