18/5/2012 - Another great week for car builders
As weeks go, this has been one full of highs and lows. It started with the sporting drama of the end of the premiership season and appears to be ending with another economic meltdown thanks to our plate-smashing friends in southern Europe.
But in between we had more good news for the UK's resurgent car manufacturing industry. First of all were the figures that showed Britain sold more cars abroad than it imported for the first time since 1976. Britain's factories made 401,412 cars in the first quarter of 2012 and around 80% of these were exported. That equates to over £6 billion worth of ¬vehicles shipped abroad, which was more than £550million more than arrived. So roll back the halcyon days of the mid 70s when we shipped our prized Cortinas, Allegros and Chevettes to the four corners of the globe.
Hot on the heels of this news was the announcement that Vauxhall's Ellesmere Port plant will build a new generation of Astra cars in an "historic" deal that will see it produce at least 160,000 cars a year. About 700 jobs will be created at the plant, which already employs 2,100, plus thousands more in the supply chain.
GM announced it will invest £125m in the factory and spend about £1bn in the UK component sector. As part of an agreement to invest in the factory, Vauxhall workers voted in favour of a new four-year pay and conditions deal that would enable the plant to work around the clock for 51 weeks of the year if necessary.
The process was assisted by the Government's industrial strategy, which is increasing its focus on the manufacturing sector and creating ideal ground for companies to build up long-term investments. Production of the new Astra will begin at the Cheshire plant in 2015 and run until at least 2020. After the investment, Ellesmere Port will have the capacity to produce up to 220,000 cars annually.
By this time next week we may find that the economic world as we know it has ended, and at least UK holiday makers can get plenty of euros for their pound. So let's celebrate the good news while we can - have a great weekend.
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