PSA Group said it has no plans to delay the launch of the next-generation Opel/Vauxhall Astra because of uncertainty about how Britain will trade with the EU after Brexit.
Workers at PSA's plant in Ellesmere Port, northwest England, have been told that production of the Astra will be delayed by a year until 2022 due to the continuing confusion around Brexit, a source close to the company told Automotive News Europe.
A PSA spokesman in the UK said the Astra sales launch will go ahead as planned next year but continued production of the car at Ellesmere Port depends on Britain's future trading relationship with the EU.
The Astra is a key product for Opel/Vauxhall because it is the division’s second best-selling model after the Corsa small hatchback.
It is built in Ellesmere Port and in Gliwice in Poland. Both plants build the five-door Astra hatchback but Ellesmere Port currently is the only plant that builds the Astra Sports Tourer station wagon.
PSA plans to end Astra production in Gliwice and add output of large commercial vans at the plant.
PSA said in June that the new Astra would start production in 2021 split between two plants, one of which would be Opel’s Russelsheim plant in Germany.
On Wednesday, PSA said five-door and wagon versions of the Astra will be built in Ruesselsheim.
The plant has been allocated production of the wagon because about 95 percent of the wagon variants are sold in continental Europe, PSA said in a statement. It also confirmed a plug-in hybrid variant of the Astra to be built in Ruesselsheim.
The Astra's second plant is still to be confirmed, the statement said.
"The allocation of a new vehicle to Ellesmere Port continues to be contingent on the terms of the future trading relationship between the UK and the European Union and ensuring that PSA can make a profitable investment,” the spokesman said.
PSA is seeking assurance from the UK government that there will be no tariffs on cars and parts traveling between the UK and the EU, the spokesman said.
PSA CEO Carlos Tavares has previously said that production of the Astra in Ellesmere Port plant will depend on the UK's trade deal with the EU after Britain leaves the bloc. Tavares said he wanted the Astra’s second production plant to be Ellesmere Port, but he warned that the factory could be shut down if Britain quits the EU with a bad trade deal.
PSA has axed around 900 jobs at Ellesmere Port since buying Opel/Vauxhall in 2017 in a drive for profitabilty.
PSA's second UK plant in Luton, southern England, is safe after it was awarded production of a new range of midsize vans.
Astra sales in Europe fell 12 percent to 130,372 in the first 11 month of last year, according to JATO Dynamics market researchers, as customers continued to migrate towards SUVs.
The Astra is a popular with business fleets partly because of discounts, although PSA has worked to reduce incentives as part of its successful strategy to return Opel to profitability.