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UK to build new Astra

Made in UK: Vauxhall is proceeding with plans to make the Astra in the UK, despite its imminent sale with Opel to a new owner.

Holden Astra imports still in limbo as Vauxhall locks in small-car production

8 Jul 2009

GENERAL Motors has headed off speculation that its Vauxhall manufacturing operations might be in imminent jeopardy under a new GM Europe owner by announcing that the new, sixth-generation Astra will go into production this year at its Ellesmere Port factory, in England.

However, there is no guarantee that any of the Astras built at that plant or any other GM Europe factory will end up in Australia under Holden badges, with the Australian GM affiliate saying Astra imports are still on hold pending a final decision on the future of the car in this country.

The Vauxhall announcement that Astra production would continue in the next generation in Britain came at a GM design “workshop” for media on the new Astra, which is scheduled to be formally launched at the Frankfurt motor show in September.

To emphasise the point, it included the announcement in the first paragraph of the press release accompanying the design details.

Speculation about the future of GM Europe plants has surfaced since GM announced it planned to offload its European operations in the wake of its collapse into Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the US.

GM has set a July 15 deadline for would-be suitors to lodge their bids for the business, which includes both Vauxhall and Opel. Parts-maker Magna International is believed to be the front-runner, with Chinese car-maker Beijing Auto (BAIC) making a late run.

Holden is keeping its powder dry on its small-car plans while it launches its Korean-made Cruze sedan and ramps up for Australian production next year of a new small sedan and hatch built on the same Delta II platform as the Cruze and Astra.

GM Holden product communications manager Kate Lonsdale said Holden was still reviewing its business case for the new Astra and the European Car of the Year, the Insignia.

“We are not bringing any more of the current AH Astra at this stage, and the situation is still being reviewed,” she said.

“We are still working with Opel and working out the business case for it (the next model). But this stage, it is definitely on hold until a decision is made.”

Ms Lonsdale said Insignia – the Vectra replacement in Europe and UK – was still on the agenda, and she indicated that Holden would love to have it in the range as a premium mid-size car if the numbers add up.

“I think we would be crazy not to look at it,” she said. “It is certainly receiving some great press, but it is the same situation as Astra – there has to be a business case there for it.”

Ms Lonsdale dismissed a suggestion that negotiations over the sale of GM Europe were holding up decisions on Astra and Insignia for Holden.

“From our end, it is business as usual,” she said.

Cruze outsold Astra – 878 to 716 – in Australia last month as the Korean car came on stream, backed with a big advertising blitz, while the Astra effectively slipped into run-out.

Read more:

First look inside: Astra’s sexy new interior

First look: Insignia-inspired Astra revealed

First look: Next Astra to take cues from Insignia


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