The future of 4,500 jobs at Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port and Luton factories are now veiled in uncertainty since this morning’s announcement that PSA Group has agreed to buy GM’s European operations.
Despite Opel and Vauxhall not having made a profit since 1999, their new owners are keen to show that there are better days on the horizon.
Carlos Tavares, chairman of the managing board of PSA, explained: “We are confident that the Opel/Vauxhall turnaround will significantly accelerate with our support, while respecting the commitments made by GM to the Opel/Vauxhall employees.”
However, with PSA Group factories across Europe currently running at such low capacity, it is easy to see how they could easily swallow up the output of the Vauxhall plants in the UK. In 2016 the two UK operations produced 186,000 vehicles, while PSA Group’s car plant in Rennes, France, only ran at 25 per cent capacity in 2016, producing 56,000 units of its overall 224,000 potential volume.
With so many jobs in the balance, it’s understandable why many are concerned about just what this deal means. Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary, quickly commented on the matter – saying that it was paramount that a future for both the plants and their workers was secured. He said: “This has obviously been a very difficult time for the workforce, but their union has been working – and will continue to work – day and night to fight for their interests.
“Now that General Motors has disposed of its UK sites, our focus switches to working with the new owners to persuade them of the evident merits of our plants and this excellent, loyal workforce.
“I am determined that we can convince the new boss, Mr Tavares, that it makes sense for him to continue to build in Britain. Our plants are the most productive in the European operation, the brand is strong here, the market for the products is here, so the cars must be made here.”
The business secretary, Greg Clark, was keen to stress that he was feeling “cautiously optimistic” about the deal, saying: “The conversations that I and the Prime Minister have had, both with GM and PSA, tell me [PSA] intend to safeguard the plants, honour their commitments and look to increase the performance and the sales of cars.”
Clark was also quick to dispel any theories that the deal was related to Brexit, adding: “This is a restructuring of the organisation. In my discussions with PSA, the chief executive said today that Brexit isn’t an essential driver of this.”
Though the deal does raise many questions, it seems that industry leaders have positive expectations for the future of both Vauxhall’s plants and its workers.