Senior
executives from General Motors are to meet next month to discuss where to assemble
the next-generation Vectra model, possibly determining the long-term future of
Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port plant on Merseyside, according to The Financial Times
(7/1/01). GM is to close its Luton Vectra factory in 2002.

The FT says that GM – Vauxhall’s US parent – is set to nominate either Ellesmere
Port or a plant in Antwerp, Belgium, as a new ‘flex’ site for Vectra production.

The plant chosen by GM’s European strategy board within four to six weeks will
receive new investment to assemble more than one model platform.

Both the Antwerp and Ellesmere Port sites assemble Astra models for GM, although
the automaker is said to be seeking a factory to provide additional capacity
for the Vectra which is currently built both at Luton and Russelsheim, Germany.

Vauxhall chairman Nick Reilly is reportedly fighting to ensure that Ellesmere
Port becomes the ‘flex’ plant to support Russelsheim, where main assembly of
the new Vectra is planned, although he did warn that the UK plant faces “a
[currency] risk” that Antwerp and other GM plants do not face, and this
must be offset.

Reilly also reportedly said that, even if Vauxhall’s Merseyside plant lost
the Vectra to Antwerp, car production would still continue there.

Also quoting Reilly, the FT said that, despite currency risks, strong British
demand for the Vectra model, particularly from the fleet sector, could strengthen
the case for assembling models in Britain. Ellesmere Port production would continue
even if the plant lost the new Vectra to Antwerp, Reilly is said to have promised.

Ellesmere Port and the other Vauxhall plants (currently two) could be competitive
at an exchange rate equivalent to DM3 to the pound, Mr Reilly told the FT.