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by Tim Beissmann

The next-generation Vauxhall/Opel Astra will be produced exclusively in the UK and Poland, leaving the future of two German plants under a cloud.

General Motors confirmed overnight it would invest £125 million ($199 million) in Britain’s Ellesmere Port assembly plant to upgrade it with the latest manufacturing equipment and prepare it for production of the new model, which is scheduled to begin in 2015.

Ellesmere Port will become the lead plant for the new Astra, producing cars around the clock over three daily shifts with an annual target of at least 160,000 vehicles. The deal will create 700 new jobs and secures the future of the plant into the early 2020s.

But the future of Germany’s Russelsheim and Bochum plants is less clear. GM has confirmed production of the Astra at Russelsheim will cease at the end of the current model’s life cycle in 2014 or 2015.

Automotive New Europe reports the Astra currently accounts for approximately one-third of the factory’s capacity, with around 30,000 Astra units built there annually.

The situation appears more dire for the Opel’s other German facility, however. The Bochum plant builds an old generation of the Astra, called the Astra Classic, for eastern European markets. It appear highly unlikely GM would continue manufacturing a car that would be two generations old by 2015.

GM is committed to keeping the Bochum plant open until 2014 to see out the current labour agreement, but has made no guarantees beyond that point.

Like Ellesmere Port, the existing site in Gliwice, Poland will benefit from a 144 million euro ($185 million) investment to upgrade its production facilities for production of the new Astra.

The newly formed Opel Australia will source its Astra vehicles from Ellesmere Port and Gliwice when it opens its local showrooms in September.




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