LONDON -- PSA CEO Carlos Tavares played down the threat to British plants as he discussed his potential takeover of General Motors' European operations with politicians and unions during a visit to London.
Tavares has been on a charm offensive to reassure politicians and unions that any deal to buy the Opel/Vauxhall business would not lead to large-scale job losses.
Tavares met the Unite union's General Secretary, Len McCluskey, on Friday. "He talked in terms of not being here to shut plants. That's not his nature," McCluskey, the head of the country's biggest union, told reporters, adding the talks were "relatively positive."
The union leader said he was pleased with some of the assurances Tavares gave, such as production commitments being met should the takeover go-ahead.
But McCluskey said there remained a lot of issues to discuss, including that of pensions.
The Vauxhall pension scheme has a deficit of up to 1 billion pounds ($1.25 billion) according to a source.
Britain's business minister Greg Clark said his talks with Tavares focused on the firm's desire to boost output. "We discussed how PSA's approach is to increase market share and expand production rather than close plants. I was assured that the commitments to the plants would be honored," Clark said in a statement.
"There was also recognition that members of the Vauxhall pension fund will be no worse off," he said.
In a statement PSA said Tavares used the meeting to reaffirm "his commitment to conduct this dialogue in accordance with existing agreements and the ethical approach of the PSA Group."
GM has two plants in the UK: Ellesmere Port, which builds the Astra compact car and Luton, which produces commercial vans. Germany accounts for about half of Opel's 38,000 staff, while 4,500 are in Britain.
PSA has said it would respect existing labor agreements if a deal took place. Underlining concerns about jobs, Opel's European works council said it had agreed to open a line of communication with its counterpart at PSA.
Tavares said this week that the combined company would aim to sell more than 5 million vehicles annually within "a few years." PSA and GM Europe delivered 4.3 million vehicles between them last year.