LONDON -- PSA Group is evaluating whether to build the Peugeot 308 in the UK and Germany alongside the Opel/Vauxhall Astra in a production shakeup for the two key compact cars, a source familiar with the automaker's deliberations said.
A PSA spokesman denied that 308 production will move from its current production site in Sochaux, France. "There is no plan to produce the 308 in Germany or in the UK," the PSA spokesman told Automotive News Europe. "We will advise on the production site when appropriate."
The Astra is currently produced in Ellesmere Port, England, and Gliwice, Poland.
The Astra decision is being complicated by the UK’s unresolved relationship with the European Union. If the UK leaves the EU without a trading deal – a so-called hard Brexit – that would reduce output at Ellesmere Port to right-hand-drive versions only, with left-handed cars moved to Ruesselsheim, the source said.
Ellesmere Port’s future has been thrown in doubt due to Brexit. Production and staffing levels have been reduced to bring the plant’s profitability closer to that of PSA’s French factories.
PSA platform switch
After buying General Motors’ European business in 2017, PSA has been switching new Opel/Vauxhall models to PSA platforms. This cuts costs and allows the automaker to restructure its European production.
PSA said on Wednesday that Gliwice would switch to building large commercial vans for the group starting in 2021, ending Astra production there.
In 2017, PSA said that Sochaux and the nearby Mulhouse plant in northeast France will get new vehicles in 2020/2021. The company did not give any further details except to say that that plants will manufacture all their vehicles on PSA’s EMP2 platform for compact and midsize cars.
Sochaux also produces the Peugeot 3008, DS5 and Opel Grandland X models. Mulhouse builds the Peugeot 2008 and 508 cars, as well as the Citroen C4, DS4 and DS7 Crossback, according to Automotive News Europe's Guide to European Assembly Plants.
Transferring 308 production from Sochaux could ease pressure at the plant, which is running a full capacity because of the success of the 3008, which was the most produced car in France last year with 258,460 units built.
News that PSA was considering adding some Astra production at Russelsheim was reported last month by the German business paper Handelsblatt, which cited Opel sources. The factory needs an extra model after production of the Zafira Tourer minivan runs out in the summer, leaving the Insignia midsize car as its sole production model.
Producing Astra alongside the 308 will be easier after the new Astra is switched to a PSA platform from its current GM platform.
Cost-saving synergies between the two models will be even more important as the compact segment continues to decline because customer demand is increasingly moving to SUVs and crossovers.
Both models are still valuable to Opel and Peugeot in Europe, however. The Astra was Opel’s second-biggest selling model in the first quarter after the Corsa small car, while the 308 was Peugeot’s fourth best-seller. Astra sales fell 17 percent to 37,968, and 308 sales dropped 4.4 percent to 39,939, according to JATO Dynamics market researchers.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was updated with PSA's denial that the UK and Germany are being considered for production of the 308.