The replacement for the current Vectra could be built at GM's Ellesmere Port plant

The replacement for the Vauxhall/Opel Vectra could be built at General Motors' Ellesmere Port plant raising UK workers' hopes, says the UK's Daily Telegraph newspaper (10/01/01) citing comments made by the parent company's European head Mike Burns.

Burns -- speaking at the Detroit Motor Show yesterday -- said he preferred the new Vectra to be built at the Merseyside factory although the contract remained "in the balance" with a lot depending on how Vauxhall chief executive Nick Reilly and the UK unions "come together".

Both GM's Antwerp Opel plant in Belgium and Vauxhall's Ellesmere Port Astra and V6 engine factory are vying for the 'top up' contract for the new Vectra - to be based on GM's new Epsilon platform - the majority of which are to be built in Russelsheim, Germany.

The newspaper reports that the Vectra was originally to be built at Vauxhall's Luton factory, which is to end car production following a decision taken last month. Burns said that decision cannot be reversed according to the Daily Telegraph. Moving Vectra production to Ellesmere Port, however, would maintain the viability of the plant once its contract to build the mid-sized Astra ends in three years' time.

A day of action in protest at the Luton closure is being planned by trade unions for January 25 although Mr Burns stressed GM's commitment to the Vauxhall brand in Britain, describing the market as a long term "key player". He said that the company is not walking away from the UK, emphasising that 280,000 cars would be built there this year.

A decision by GM on the Vectra replacement build locations is expected to be made at a European strategy meeting in Zurich, Switzerland, set for the middle of next month, says the Daily Telegraph.