Vauxhall has decided what will happen to the Zafira Tourer

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We now know what’s going to happen with the Vauxhall Zafira Tourer: it will move from Bochum to Russelsheim in 2015, replacing the Astra that’s currently built there.

I mused on whether Ellesmere Port could get it but GM, it seems, has found a more elegant solution, and one that its British plant should find even more favourable.

Russelsheim currently isn’t a key plant for the Astra – it built 50,000 of them last year – so from 2015, three-site production for Vauxhall’s family hatch will reduce to two.

It means Ellesmere Port will be on for making around 160,000 Astras annually (it has capacity for 187k, so that’ll be super plant utilisation) when the next generation model its striking labour deal helped win comes on stream in 2015. Gilwice in Poland will be the other Astra plant, giving GM Europe neat east-west Europe coverage for its vital new VW Golf challenger.

GM has been smart here

Yup, an elegant solution: concentrate Astra production and use the resulting spare capacity to build the homeless Zafira Tourer. Keep Russelsheim happy, Ellesmere Port happy and work more efficintly overall to boot.

It’s encouraging: this sort of logic is exactly what’s needed to help GM Europe get back in the black. It has, Automotive News reminds us, lost $18bn since 1999. US bosses (and the US government, and the US public) have had enough.

So… when Bochum tries to play hardball and force a compromise from GM, the General says no. That’s why it’s closing. Bochum’s stance may have worked in the past, but not now – the labour union’s misreading of this has led to the plant closing.

A lesson learnt indeed.

Contrast this approach with the flexibility shown by the British workforce at Ellesmere Port for an example of the rewards to be had: the securing of the plant, 700 extra jobs and a guarantee of car production well into the 2020s.

Yet more gratifying evidence of how strong labour relations are helping the UK car industry prosper rather than prostrate…

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