What was highly probable yesterday is definite: GM will shift production of the Astra compact from Germany to Ellesmere Port, England. Workers at the UK plant agreed nearly to a man and a woman (approval rate 94 percent) to a deal with GM that keeps Ellesmere Port open and that spells the near certain doom of Opel’s plant in Bochum.
Workers agreed to a four-year deal that freezes wages for two years, and that allows only moderate rises of around 3 percent for the following two years, Reuters heard from a source. The source also said:
“It’s almost certain that one of GM’s German plants will now be closed, probably the plant in Bochum.”
Currently, some Astra production is at Opel’s Rüsselsheim plant in Germany. Beginning in 2015, this will shift to Ellesmere Port. The Polish plant in Gliwice most likely will continue Astra production. It is expected that production of other cars will be shifted from Bochum to Rüsselsheim, with Bochum to be shuttered.
According to a GM statement, the Ellesmere Port plant will run three-shifts at full capacity. GM committed to a minimum of 160,000 vehicles to be produced each year. The company will invest £125 million into the facility and expects to create circa 700 new direct jobs. The agreement comes into force in 2013 and runs through the life of the next-generation Astra, into the early 2020s. Production of the new Astra will begin in 2015. This is also when the current contracts with European unions run out. Until then, all plants must stay open, and all workers must remain working.
Ellesmere Port had been on GM’s target list, but survived again. This also means a continuation revival of the British car industry, this time with a British brand on German cars. Lately, the island has been a preferred location for production by Asian manufacturers, such as Nissan, Toyota, and Tata. Britain now exports more cars than it imports for the first time since 1976.