LONDON - The British government's decision to ban the sale of internal combustion engine cars in 2030 has narrowed the options for Vauxhall's Ellesmere Port plant, said Carlos Tavares, CEO of Stellantis.
Tavares said a decision on the future of the plant will be made "within a few weeks."
The factory in northwest England builds the Astra compact station wagon for the Vauxhall and Opel brands. A decision on whether to continue to build the car at the plant was put on hold while Britain's future trading relationship with the EU was determined.
Tavares said he was "relieved" that London and Brussels had agreed a free trade deal that mostly eliminated tariffs between the UK and EU. He was speaking on Tuesday in his first press conference since Stellantis was created from the merger of Vauxhall owner PSA Group and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles on Jan. 16.
The EU-UK deal's "rules of origin" provisions that make no distinction between EU and UK content gave Stellantis the freedom to make a decision based on commercial realities, Tavares said.
He said Stellantis would be able to comply with the local content rules. However the UK government's decision to "brutally change the rules" by banning sales of non-hybrid internal combustion engine cars at the end of the decade has ruled out building those cars in Ellesmere Port.
Tavares said it would be difficult to invest in Ellesmere Port to build electrified models when most of the cars built at the plant would be sold in mainland Europe.
The decision would partly "depend on the willingness for UK government to protect the automotive industry in their own country," he said.
Tavares' attack on Britain's 2030 ban was "a major lobbying message" directed at the UK government to scrap the 2030 deadline or redefine the terms of electrification and give combustion engine cars half a decade longer, likely similar to the EU roadmap, Matthias Schmidt, a Berlin-based EV automotive analyst, wrote on Twitter.
The UK said in November that it would ban sales of internal combustion engine cars in 2030, but will exempt plug-in hybrid and full hybrid cars until 2035.
The target puts the UK ahead of France and Spain, which have 2040 target dates, and in line with Ireland and the Netherlands. The only country with a more ambitious target for such a ban is Norway, with a date of 2025.