Vauxhall boss warns factories will remain mothballed until it gets clarity over when showrooms can reopen
- UK factories in Ellesmere Port and Luton are ‘ready to go’ with production
- However, bosses said there is no point making cars if they can’t be sold due to dealerships being closed
- Vauxhall has prepared its manufacturing sites for social distancing on return
- Government plans suggest car showrooms can re-open from June 1
The boss of Vauxhall has warned its factories will remain mothballed until it gets clarity from ministers over when showrooms will be able to reopen.
Stephen Norman, managing director of one of Britain’s biggest car manufacturers, told the Mail that its giant factories at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire and Luton and their combined workforce of around 2,500 people are now ‘ready to go’.
But he also said there is no point making new cars when there is nowhere to sell them.
‘Ready to go’: The manufacturer has spent the last few weeks working with union Unite getting its factories ready for social distancing
The manufacturer has spent the last few weeks working with union Unite getting its factories ready for social distancing.
This has included putting two-metre markers along the production lines, shutting down kitchens and canteens, and buying in personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves for workers.
Plans have also been put in place to stagger the arrival times of workers, so workers finishing their shifts do not bump into colleagues starting theirs.
Staff are being told to take their temperature at home for two weeks – the incubation period for Covid-19 – and their temperatures will also be taken at factory gates.
Manufacturing is among the sectors which have been given the green light to return to work, as workers obviously cannot do their job at home.
But the document published by the Government spelling out plans to emerge from the lockdown and return to work did not provide the clarity car makers had been hoping for over when their showrooms, which are classed as ‘non-essential retailers’, will be able to reopen.
The guidance only said non-essential retailers would start to reopen in phases from June 1 if it is safe to do so and if employers can follow the Government’s new ‘Covid-19 Secure’ guidelines.
Norman said the plants are ‘ready to go into production’, claiming staff will probably be safer working at the factories than in their daily lives, ‘even under the lockdown’.
Bosses at the car firm said they have already made alterations to factories in Ellesmere Port and Luton in preparation for workers to return
Managing director Stephen Norman said there is no point in production restarting until Vauxhall showrooms reopen – which could happen from June 1, according to the latest Government update
He said: ‘In order for us to make vans and cars, we have to have orders for those vans and cars. It is obviously vital that those showrooms should be allowed to open to generate the demand for the vehicles.’
Urging the Government to allow showrooms to open from next Monday, Norman added: ‘We know how to build vehicles properly and safely. In our two manufacturing plants, employing thousands of people, we have the processes in place so that we can operate in a way to protect our employees. There’s no reason why we cannot operate showrooms in an equally safe manner today.’
Industry figures published last week revealed that sales of new cars slumped 97 per cent last month to 4,321. Just 871 were sold to private households, with the majority bought by key workers and front-line public services and companies.
Last month, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders also warned that the Covid-19 crisis is set to cost the British car industry more than £8 billion, even if all factories are reopened in mid-May.
Vauxhall has been making cars at the Ellesemere Port plant for 56 years