PSA Group’s Ellesmere Port plant in northwest England is in danger of losing a significant chunk of its output in favor of Germany’s Rüsselsheim facility.
According to a report from German business paper Handelsblatt cited by Autonews Europe, PSA Group will decide in the coming weeks which European plants will build the next-generation Astra, which is expected to arrive no later than 2021.
Unions at the Ellesmere Port factory in the UK fear that PSA may move production of left-hand-drive Astra models to Germany. Currently, the Astra is built in Ellesmere Port and Gliwice, Poland. However, the report cites company sources as saying that Opel’s home plant in Rüsselsheim could be chosen to build the left-hand-drive cars currently made at Ellesmere Port.
Rüsselsheim will stop making the Zafira Tourer this summer and will only be left with the Insignia
The truth is the German plant is in need of an extra model as it will stop making the Zafira Tourer this summer. When production of the MPV stops, the only model made in Rüsselsheim will be the Insignia. According to the German paper, the site selection process for the Astra has largely been completed.
PSA is reportedly considering two options: allocating 75 percent of Astra production to Ellesmere Port and 25 percent to Rüsselsheim (instead of Gliwice); or producing 75 percent of Astras in Rüsselsheim and allocating only right-hand-drive models to Ellesmere Port.
Handelsblatt claims PSA is leaning more towards the second option because of Brexit and currency risks. However, that depends on whether German unions will agree to big job cuts at Rüsselsheim. At the moment, IG Metall opposes the cuts. Most likely, PSA will wait to see the Brexit outcome before making a decision. PSA Group CEO Carlos Tavares previously said he was open to the idea of Ellesmere Port building RHD versions of PSA vehicles to avoid tariffs between the UK and EU in case of a hard Brexit.
Opel CEO already promised German union that Rüsselsheim will build a second model
Interestingly, on April 11 Opel management and IG Metall met to discuss the “planned capacity utilization and the investments in the German plants to fulfill the collective agreements.”
During the meeting, the union was assured that Rüsselsheim will get a second model to replace the Zafira Tourer. “We also talked about further investments including those for Rüsselsheim. As announced, we will bring a second model based on a modern Groupe PSA multi-energy platform to Rüsselsheim,” said Opel CEO Michael Lohscheller in a joint statement.
It remains to be seen whether that model is the next-generation Astra or another vehicle from the PSA Group.
Note: current-generation Opel Astra pictured