By on May 7, 2012

After a lot of talk, GM is beginning to create facts at Opel: The production of Opel’s volume model, the Astra, will be moved from Rüsselsheim to Opel/Vauxhall sites in Ellesmere Port and Gliwice, Poland. This according to reports in Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, which receives usually reliable information from Opel’s unions.

The union informants of the FAZ say that the decision will be announced in a few weeks. Their information is from Steve Girsky. Girsky heads Opel’s Supervisory Board where the unions have half of the seats.\

With more than 300,000 units made per year, the Astra is (next to the Corsa) Opel’s most important model. A decision to move its production elsewhere is devastating, a union member told the Frankfurt paper. “It is as if the Volkswagen Golf would no longer be built in Wolfsburg,” the informant said. One third of Rüsselsheim’s production capacity is currently used to make the Astra, says the FAZ

The move is planned for 2015, when the new generation of the Astra will be launched. In the same year, the agreement expires that until then prohibits firings or plant closures.

An Opel spokesman had no comment and referred to ongoing discussions. According to Der Spiegel, Opel CEO Stracke implicitly confirmed the story by praising Rüsselsheim’s importance for the production of the Opel Insignia.

Vis-a-vis the Wall Street Journal, GM later confirmed that it presented the strategy for the upcoming compact-car generation to its labor unions. Stracke said in a statement:

“After finalizing an information and consultation process with European labor representatives the company will decide at which plants the next Astra generation will be produced from 2015 on.”

Hat tip to the mountain man.

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6 Comments on “Opel To Pull Plug On Astra Production In Rüsselsheim...”

  • avatar

    Still leaves many questions unanswered. Does this mean the Ellesmere Port plant will stay open beyond 2015? What about the other models assembled in Rüsselsheim now? Will they be moved elsewhere and the plant completely shut down or will the plant continue to operate beyond 2015 with smaller capacity? If Ellesmere is kept open, then what is the second plant they would still have to close to align production with sales?

    Whatever the strategy, its going to be very messy and expensive. Opel will probably lose $3B by 2015 not including buyouts and severance packages during plant closings. Should have cut their losses and run when they had a chance in 2009.

  • avatar

    Rüsselsheim plant cannot be closed, since it is the core of Opel and historical site where Opel was founded 150 years ago…It could be eventually resized taking out some car lines from there but I doubt GM will totally close it

  • avatar
    D in the D

    I wouldn’t be so absolutely certain. Ask anyone in Flint, MI how much credence to put on historical reasoning. The entire company was founded there, and now it’s just one of many significant sites. Not closed, but nowhere near what it was 40 years ago.

  • avatar

    Good move. When automakers close plants in Europe, they generally look at Britain first, because UK labor laws tend to make closing factories there cheaper and easier than on the more protectionist continent. Ellesmere Port has been GM Europe’s most efficient plant for years, and never should have been on the chopping block in the first place. Score one for sanity.

  • avatar

    Disastra for Rüsselsheim.

  • avatar
    Cammy Corrigan

    If this story is true, and I sincerely hope it is, then this will have many positive effects.

    1. The UK retains a car manufacturing plant with an increased output and huge scope for export. This is crucial because the UK are trying to export our way out of recession and if Ellesmere Port were to close, that would be a huge blow to that plan. Since September 2008, people in the UK are starting to re-learn the value and benefits of manufacturing & engineering and looking at “financial engineers” with an air of derision. Again, if Ellesmere Port closed that might have undermined that new paradigm.

    2. It actually sends a sharp lesson to continental Europe. Many people in the UK (myself included) are utterly sick to death about hearing how plants, prices and labour on the Continent are “so much more efficient” than hoary, old United Kingdom. They casually gloss over how many things are actually subsidised to keep their prices low. Sometimes subsidised by the UK themselves! A good example of this is electricity prices. In France, EdF and GDF Suez are majority state owned and the government dictates to them how much energy prices can rise, so if prices naturally rise by, say, 9% and the government says you can only charge the French customers 4%, then tough! Swallow the cost. This means someone has to take up the financial slack. So in the UK, where EdF and GDF Suez also operate, the UK have a free market policy, so they can charge whatever prices they like, so it’s a good opportunity to rip foreign customers off in order to subsidise the French ones. So, effectively plants in France get an advantage (in one aspect) that UK plants don’t. I suppose what I’m saying is the message to continental Europe is “If you want to play the ‘Free market’ game, play by the rules.”

    3. Another message it sends to Europe, is that efficient plants are valued. If GM, for example, were to shut its most efficient plant in Europe, what kind of message does that send to the other plants? “Hey, lads! We can be as slow as we like and doesn’t matter! It’s who lobbies hardest.” Europe can’t work like that anymore. We need to have the most efficient plants, not just in Europe, but in the world. And in the UK, Ellesmere Port in GM’s most efficient plant in Europe and Nissan Sunderland is Nissan’s most efficient plant in Europe and one of Nissan’s most efficient plants, globally. Toyota’s Burnaston plant is also considered to be a very tight operation, too. Toyota Japan are shipping the Toyota Avensis to Japan for sale. Japanese customers are very particular about their quality and Toyota would not ship a substandard product to one of its key markets. We in the UK can run efficient operations, it’s just that it counts for nothing if production will also shift to Europe because of the expense of closing a continental plant. Hopefully, this will help shift that way of thinking.

    If this story turns out to be true, then maybe Europe will realise they can’t keep putting inflexible labour laws to prevent plant closures. If efficiency and quality become the metrics by which European plants compete on, then you watch the UK become the “motor city” of Europe…

    P.S. If you actually read this post from start to finish, then you have more patience for waffling then I do! :O)

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