Vauxhall’s Astra pledge depends on Brexit deal

motor manufacturer

The French owner of Vauxhall has given the under-pressure automotive industry a boost by confirming its intention to build the new Astra in Britain, but warned that its final decision rested on a favourable Brexit deal.

Groupe PSA, the owner of Peugeot, Citroen and Vauxhall, said that its decision to allocate Astra production to its factory in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, will be “conditional on the final terms of the UK’s exit from the European Union”.

The intervention came as Ford, the American carmaker, announced it was cutting 12,000 jobs in Europe, including 3,100 in Britain. It called the restructuring “the most comprehensive redesign in the history of its business in Europe”.

The Astra, introduced in 1991, is currently built in Ellesmere Port and Gliwice, Poland. Ellesmere Port opened in 1962 and at its peak employed 12,000 people. PSA bought Vauxhall and Opel, its German sister brand, from General Motors in 2017 and cut the workforce at Ellesmere Port from 1,900 to 1,100.

Mick Chalmers, of the Unite union, said: “It is imperative for the future of the thousands of people who depend on Vauxhall Ellesmere Port that a no-deal Brexit is taken off the table and a deal reached with the European Union that secures frictionless trade and tariff-free access.”

Ford said that it will axe 12,000 jobs in Europe “from every department” by the end of next year and close six of its 24 manufacturing plants on the Continent by the end of next year.

The 3,100 job cuts in Britain comprise expected losses between 2018 and 2020, including the previously announced closure of its engine factory in Bridgend, south Wales. Of the 12,000 jobs to be cut in Europe, 5,000 will go in Germany and 2,200 in Russia. Three manufacturing plants will be closed in Russia and one in France. Ford is also selling a plant in Slovakia and reducing shifts at facilities in Saarlouis, Germany, and Valencia, Spain.

Ford said this month that it would close its engine factory in Bridgend, south Wales, with the loss of 1,700 jobs and warned that a no-deal Brexit could put another 6,000 British production and development jobs at risk. Last November it said that the Ford of Britain and Ford Credit Europe headquarters in Warley, Essex, would close and that operations would move to Dunton.

Stuart Rowley, president of Ford of Europe, said: “Separating employees and closing plants are the hardest decisions we make. We are focused on building a long-term sustainable future for our business in Europe.”

Ford began production in Europe in 1911 and is Britain’s best-selling car brand, accounting for one in eight new registrations. Ford of Europe, a subsidiary of the US company, employs about 51,000 people, a quarter of whom are in the UK. These include 3,500 workers at a global research and development centre at Dunton, near Basildon in Essex; 1,800 workers at an engine plant for diesel vans in Dagenham, east London; and 700 who work on rear-wheel drive components in Halewood, Merseyside.

Ford has blamed “Brexit effects” and increased metals prices for disappointing financial results from Ford of Europe, including a surprise loss in the third quarter of 2017. In January, Jim Hackett, chief executive of Ford, began a review of the European business.

The company said yesterday that Ford of Europe would be divided into three groups — commercial vehicles, passenger vehicles and imports — from next month. The commercial vehicle unit will be based in Dunton and aims to double its profitability in the next five years, Ford said. The passenger vehicles group, which includes electric vehicles, will be based in Cologne, Germany.

The imports division will offer a “niche portfolio” of passenger vehicles such as the Ford Mustang and a new “Mustang-inspired” fully electric vehicle from late next year.