1,000 jobs at risk at Luton's Vauxhall plant

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The Independent Online

The future of Vauxhall's Luton van factory will finally be decided within the next eight weeks, according to the company's European boss.

The plant, which employs more than 1,000 people, makes the Vivaro van. But the plant's future is unclear because Vauxhall has not yet fixed on what it will be used for after the current Vivaro contract runs out in 2013.

Nick Reilly, the president of General Motors Europe, which includes Vauxhall in the UK and Opel in Germany, said this week that a decision is imminent but all options are still under consideration.

Possibilities include continuing production of either all or part of the second-generation Vivaro being developed with Renault, or building another vehicle entirely at Luton. But Mr Reilly also refused to rule out closing the factory. "Right now we are going through the decision-making and we should finalise that in the next month or two," he said. "All options are still possible and I'm not going to say what is on the table and what is not because these are sensitive discussions and our people need to know what is happening first."

Luton has already lost 350 jobs as part of the massive restructuring of GM Europe in the aftermath of the global group's bankruptcy and US government bailout in 2009. The European arm came within a whisker of being sold, and will lose 8,000 jobs. Some 5,000 roles have gone in the past year, largely following the closure of its Antwerp factory last month, and another 1,500 will go in 2011.

Meanwhile the group's other UK factory, the Astra plant at Ellesmere Port, is "a strong contender" to become the first European plant to build the electric hybrid Ampera set to go on sale in the UK later this year, according to Mr Reilly. The first generation will be built in the US, but if demand ramps up as expected, the second or third generations of the car will be built in Europe.

Globally, GM has bounced back into the black this year. But GM Europe is still loss-making. Mr Reilly says the company is on track to break even on an underlying basis in 2011, leaving aside restructuring charges, and will return to profit in 2012.