Vauxhall and Opel Astras are constructed on the production line in the Vauxhall factory in Ellesmere Port, north-west England, on May 17, 2012. Vauxhall, the British division of US carmaker General Motors, said Thursday it would build the new Astra model at its northern England plant in a ?125-million ($198 million, 156-million-euro) investment. AFP PHOTO/PAUL ELLIS (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/GettyImages)PSA Group, the owner of the Peugeot brand, has announced it is in talks to buy General Motor’s European arm – a deal which could put British jobs at risk.
General Motors employs around 35,000 people in the UK under the Vauxhall banner, including 4,500 staff at car plants in Ellesmere Port and Luton and 23,000 in its retail network.
Its European subsidy trades under the name of Opel and is headquartered in Germany.
In a statement, PSA said it was exploring the “potential acquisition” of the business but there were currently “no assurances that an agreement will be reached”.
If it does go ahead the combination of PSA’s existing company assets – which also include the Citroen and DS brands – and General Motor’s operations would create an automotive giant which would control around 16% of the European car market.
The two firms already collaborate on the production of SUVs and minivans but a closer relationship established in 2012, aimed at making production more efficient for both companies by working together on a larger scale, fell apart in late 2013 when General Motors sold its stake in PSA for £250m.
General Motors has been struggling in recent years to turn its European business around, and announced last year that it would be raising UK car prices by 2.5% in order to deal with the “speed bump” Brexit had presented to its plans.
Speaking following the announcement on Tuesday, Unite’s general secretary Len McClusky said the union would be making enquiries on behalf of the company’s UK workers.
“My priority now is to speak to General Motors to seek immediate assurances for the UK plants and this loyal workforce,” he said.
“I’ll also be seeking urgent conversations with the Government because everything must be done to secure our world-class automotive industry.”
A spokesman for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said: “Speculation over a merger between GM and Peugeot is a matter for the companies involved.
“The Government remains in close contact with GM as we closely monitor the situation.”