UK unit Vauxhall is having a good year so far, according to General Motors president and CEO Rick Wagoner.

Speaking during an impromptu press conference after the launch of the redesigned Corsa at the London motor show, Wagoner said: "Vauxhall has really come out of the beginning of this year very well. First quarter results are very much on track.

"We said we wanted to get into a profitable position this year, the first time, frankly in a while we've been able to do that."

He said that new products such as the Astra and Zafira had been well received by the market.

"We've built some good momentum on the product side and we've got more coming as the year rolls along."

"The UK market  seems to be OK. It's a little softer than it's been running but if you look back over the last decade it's been surprisingly strong and, frankly, I think the economy's done very well.

He said GM faced some "very difficult but financially important moves in restructuring the business. We're also proceeding with that and that's given us a much better base as we head forward."

"There has been some shift here from manufacturing more to services here but we have committed ourselves to try and maintain a reasonable manufacturing footprint, which we have."

He said GM would complete ending the third shift (with 900 jobs lost) this week. "We have had excellent acceptance of the voluntary programme of attrition and we shouild be able to do that in a fairly sensitive way and I hope that sets us up so we can continue to run the production facilities we have here.

"We see an advantage for it, frankly, because we sell a lot here so it helps to balance out exchange risk."

He said GM had seen a "good turnaround" at Ellesmere Port, which builds Astras, primarily for UK sale.

"Productivity's improved, quality's improved and our commercial vehicle plant in Luton has seen similar good results. We want to take advantage of that if we can."

He hoped the 900  jobs lost would be the last but could make no firm commitment. "We hope so, certainly it's our plan today. It's a day-to-day battle and if we don't win in the marketplace we have to make these kinds of moves, and if we do we can protect more of these jobs.

"We're really trying to get to a point where profitability is strong."

He added that the launch of the Chevrolet brand in Europe (primarily with Korean-built GM-Daewoo models) had been a "rousing success" and "grown like crazy".

"It really enables us to segment the market a little bit more between value and traditional European buyers."

Saab had done "quite well" in the last two years, he said, and there was a "deliberate strategy worked out for Cadillac".

"All in all, using the brands… and our global production sources, we can get a good strategy to come after what's one of the most important and challenging markets in the world."

Graeme Roberts

Portugese plant to close in December

Ellesmere Port vies for new Astra

GM axes Ellesmere Port shift