Vauxhall’s EV Future Outside UK Post Brexit

Vauxhall’s electrification strategy is hanging in the balance now that its parent company questions the viability of maintaining a UK production base in a hard Brexit.

The Financial Times has reported comments from PSA Group’s CEO Carlos Tavares that it would have to move production of the volume selling compact urban Vauxhall Astra out of the Ellesmere Port plant in Cheshire in the event of a no-deal Brexit hitting the factory’s bottom line. The move would leave the English car brand with only a LCV plant in Luton, Bedfordshire and no guarantees that would be able to weather the challenges of just-in-time car manufacturing requirements should possible trade tariffs and customs delays make this impossible.

The paper reported Tavares saying: “Frankly I would prefer to put it [the Astra car] in Ellesmere Port but if the conditions are bad and I cannot make it profitable, then I have to protect the rest of the company and I will not do it. We have an alternative to Ellesmere Port.” Naturally, the “alternative” factory will come from the French automaker’s existing European plants, probably by extending capacity the Opel facility in Russelsheim in Germany, and to include the anticipated electrified Astra to follow the brand’s existing Corsa e BEV.

While this makes all rather grim reading for the UK workers affected by a possible shutdown, does it harm the brand’s electric strategy. Probably not. In fact, PSA’s other brands are already far ahead of the Vauxhall/Opel range in terms of offering electrified powertrains.

So, a consolidation of resources in the European block enjoying continued free movement of products and people could only benefit Vauxhall’s longer-term future in keeping up with the move towards zero emission products. It’s clear car production in the UK will be the loser in the event of a no-deal Brexit and raises questions whether other British brands owned by foreign companies, such as Mini, Jaguar Land Rover and possibly even the premium end badges of Bentley and Rolls-Royce, will be able to justify the costs of production in their ‘home’ market?

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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