Only time will tell what PSA deal for Vaux­hall re­ally means

Auto Express - - This Week - GRA­HAM HOPE Edi­tor Gra­ham_hope@den­nis.co.uk

PER­HAPS the big­gest irony of the Geneva Mo­tor Show, which I vis­ited last week, was that pro­ceed­ings were over­shad­owed by a story that didn’t in­volve any of the star cars on the stands – and this year there were plenty, prov­ing yet again that the in­dus­try is in pretty rude health.

The pur­chase of Vaux­hall and Opel by PSA, the maker of Peu­geots, Citroens and DS mod­els, dom­i­nated con­ver­sa­tions, as you might ex­pect.

And the brands in­volved were cer­tainly talk­ing a good game. Karl-thomas Neu­mann, boss of Opel, said the deal was an op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate a “true European cham­pion” and pledged that Vaux­hall would re­main a “true Bri­tish brand” (and Opel a true Ger­man one, of course).

His coun­ter­part at Peu­geot, Jean-philippe Im­parato, told me: “I think it will have a very pos­i­tive ef­fect on our abil­ity to de­velop prod­ucts and our abil­ity to sell cars out­side Europe.”

But amid all the op­ti­mism and in­trigue as to how this bold plan will evolve, there also has to be some con­cern about what it could mean for Vaux­hall’s Bri­tish work­ers. PSA has guar­an­teed Ellesmere Port’s deal to build the As­tra (above) will be hon­oured un­til 2021, while Lu­ton staff will con­tinue build­ing the Vi­varo un­til 2025.

Be­yond that, who knows? Two things are clear, though. Firstly, with fac­to­ries all over Europe, the new, en­larged PSA would seem to have over­ca­pac­ity, plac­ing some plants at risk. And se­condly, as the car in­dus­try has shown re­peat­edly that it likes known fac­tors rather than vari­ables, the un­cer­tainty of trad­ing in post-brexit Bri­tain surely won’t do our fa­cil­i­ties any favours when it comes to new con­tracts. While the tim­ing was right for PSA to do this deal, let’s hope it doesn’t prove very wrong for work­ers in the UK.

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