What’s going to happen to the Vauxhall Zafira Tourer?

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Vauxhall_BiTurbo__Zafira_TourerLast year, I took delivery of a very dour-looking Vauxhall Zafira Tourer, fully expecting not to be impressed.

The fact it exceeded my expectations, and the poverty-spec trim it was resplendent in, thus rallied me to writing about my surprise. Not often a Vauxhall does that (even if the brand has recently made a bit of a habit of it).

Now, though, the car’s future may be in question. The firm, as part of plans to deal with its European overcapacity, is closing the German Bochum plant that makes the Zafira Tourer. Last month, it confirmed the closure will happen two years ahead of schedule, in Q4 2014.

What hasn’t been confirmed is what’ll happen to the Zafira Tourer.

Surely the seven-seat people carrier isn’t set for the scrapheap after just three years in production? Particularly given how it’s more than a match for other frontrunners in its class?

Given the cost of getting vehicles into production, GM Europe surely won’t let it go down with the plant, will it?

Nobody, at this stage, seems sure. The next model is apparently due in 2017, likely joint-developed with Peugeot. To have three years out of a market Vauxhall virtually invented with the original seven-seat Zafira back in 1999 is unfathomable.

Could britain build the Zafira Tourer?

What, then, about making the Zafira Tourer in Ellesmere Port instead? It’s not fanciful. The plant already builds the Astra Sports Tourer alongside the five-door, proving it has a degree of flexibility (the Zafira Tourer is based on the same platform).

Ellesmere Port is also export-focused and currently under capacity. Slotting the Zafira Tourer in would provide a useful fillip while the next Astra, scheduled for 2015, is awaited.

With that new Astra, the plant is expected to be building at least 160k Astras a year, and this could be pushed up to 200k. This would only take it up to where it used to be, though: in 2010, it made 187k cars. It’s believed to currently have capacity of around 250k cars.

In 2011, it built 140k cars; last year, this fell to around 95k (65% capacity). Nearly 9 in 10 cars built there is exported and, inevitably, it’s thus been affected by the depressed European market.

Add in Zafira Tourer and plant utilisation could grow once again to the 250k mark it’s built to take.

So what of it? I’ll ask Vauxhall and find out…

* Bochum is closing early because workers rejected a plan that would turn it into a parts warehouse, saving 1200 of the 3200 jobs there. “We very much regret that the employees in Bochum did not accept an attractive offer,” said

Manfred Gellrich, the factory’s director, in a statement. “A huge opportunity has now been missed.”

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