Ellesmere Port: Kwarteng says government is working to save Vauxhall car plant

January 22, 2021

The government is working to persuade Vauxhall's parent company to commit to future production at its Ellesmere Port plant, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has said.

Stellantis says it will decide the fate of the Cheshire plant, which employs around 1,000 people directly, "in the coming weeks".

Ellesmere Port currently makes the Astra, a model which is due to be superseded next year.

Stellantis, formed from the merger of PSA Group which owns Peugeot & Citroen as well as the Vauxhall & Opel brands, and the FiatChrysler Group, has said it will produce its successor in Germany and another plant, yet to be decided.

This week Stellantis chief executive Oscar Tavares said it was unlikely to invest in petrol and diesel models in the UK because of the 2030 ban on sales of new internal combustion vehicles, leaving the plant's future appearing to rest on electric models.

Speaking after Nissan confirmed it will shift battery production for its long-range Leaf electric model to Sunderland, Mr Kwarteng said he would encourage Stellantis to commit to the UK.

"I think that the Nissan investment shows that we can have great success in this area," he said.

"Many of the car companies I speak to are adapting to electric vehicle production and I'm sure that we can engage with, I know we are engaging, with Vauxhall to deal with the sensitive situation in Ellesmere Port.

"I will do everything I can, with the prime minister's backing and the government's backing, to make sure we get the right results for Ellesmere Port just as Nissan have invested and given us a vote of confidence, by promoting Sunderland and by saying they're committed to Sunderland as a long-term investment."

Mr Kwarteng seized on Nissan's commitment to Sunderland, and its characterisation of the Brexit deal as a "competitive advantage", calling it a "positive win for Britain".

The company's move is a marked change in tone following years of warning that a no-deal Brexit threatened the viability of the Sunderland plant.

Producing batteries in Sunderland, rather than relying on production in Japan and the US, will allow Nissan to avoid tariffs under new rules-of-origin regulations imposed as a consequence of Brexit.

Mr Kwarteng said: "I don't think we can take for granted that this would have happened in the course of events, anyway.

"It's a great win for the people of Sunderland, it's a great win for the United Kingdom, and I'm not sure that this would necessarily have happened if we had been in the EU.

"It's a competitive global marketplace, people can move around at will, companies do so. I think for Nissan to confirm this investment in Britain is a great, great win for Sunderland, and also for the United Kingdom."

He also said he would be pressing the case for continued government support for business as restrictions continue, but would not commit to supporting an extension of the furlough scheme beyond the end of April.

"I'm not going to get drawn into what the chancellor is going to be doing, but there are a whole range of issues, a whole range of mitigations that we're looking at and I will always be on the side of business making that representation at the highest level of government."

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