General Motors Europe is ending production of the long-running Isuzu Rodeo -based Frontera SUV at its IBC plant in Luton at the end of 2003 though there will be no compulsory redundancies amongst the 125 employees who build it – they will be absorbed into the plant’s Vivaro van-building operation that is a joint venture with Renault .
The Frontera was developed from the Japanese-designed Rodeo and is similar to the model still being sold in the US (and its now-defunct Honda Passport clone). The European version used some GME engines and dashboard components and was sold with Opel, Vauxhall and Holden badges around the world.
The Frontera was launched in 1991 and is said to have significantly contributed to the growth of the European off-road segment. In its strongest year, 1993, the Frontera accounted for 37,500 registrations and, from 1992 to 1995 was actually the best-selling SUV in Western and Central Europe.
Nonetheless, it acquired a reputation in the UK for poor build quality and reliability and, at one point in the mid-1990s, a convoy of disgruntled owners, encouraged by a television ‘consumer watchdog’ programme, travelled to Vauxhall HQ for words with the then managing director.
Altogether, over the entire lifecycle, Opel/Vauxhall sold almost 285,000 Fronteras to-date.
GME said in a statement that the European market for recreational vehicles has changed significantly and, since November 1997, the segment in which Frontera has competed has seen a major decline in sales as the market has moved away from traditional recreational vehicles to other body styles as well as more ‘fun and leisure-types’ of recreational vehicles such as GM’s own Zafira and Meriva minivans and the new Signum executive hatchback.
In 2002, approximately 9,000 Fronteras were registered in Western and Central Europe, down from a high of almost 33,000 in 1999.
“The decision to end Frontera production was sadly inevitable. However I am pleased that production of the award winning Vivaro at IBC continues to go from strength to strength. With almost 90% going for export, and strong UK demand it is a great product securing jobs in our local community”, said IBC plant director Peter Thom.
The end of the Frontera is also the end of passenger vehicle production at Vauxhall ’s historic Luton site in Bedfordshire but car production – of the Astra and some versions of the Vectra – continues at the newer Ellesmere Port plant in Cheshire.
The US version of the Frontera , the Isuzu Rodeo , will run until summer 2004, assembled in Indiana by Subaru , to whom financially-troubled Isuzu in January sold its 49% share of the plant, built as a joint venture. Isuzu USA will then import new SUVs from Thailand to supplement the GM USA-built Ascender, a clone of the Chevrolet TrailBlazer.