U.K.'s Clark Pledges `Unbounded Commitment' to Vauxhall Plants

  • GM’s proposed sale to PSA prompts concern about U.K. factories
  • Business secretary plans to meet PSA chief later this week

U.K. Business Secretary Greg Clark pledged to do everything he can to protect General Motors Co.’s factories in Britain and tens of thousands of linked jobs if a proposed sale by the U.S. automaker of its European operations proceeds.

GM said last week that it’s in talks to sell its Opel and Vauxhall-branded operations to Peugeot owner PSA Group, prompting a flurry of diplomatic activity as Clark first sought talks with GM, and then with PSA and the French government, which part-owns the French manufacturer. On Monday, he told lawmakers in Parliament in London he’ll meet PSA Chief Executive Officer Carlos Tavares later this week.

“I will do everything I can at all times to secure the best possible future for Vauxhall and its workers,” Clark said. “My personal commitment and the commitment of this government will be unbounded” to ensure future of Vauxhall’s plants at Ellesmere Port, near Liverpool, and Luton, north of London.

The proposed deal, spurred by GM’s desire to shed a loss-making arm, raises questions about the future of the unit’s factories in countries including the U.K., Germany and Spain. Britain’s vote to leave the European Union makes British operations even more vulnerable, because it raises the specter of tariffs as the country leaves the world’s biggest trading bloc.

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“We want to negotiate the best possible access to the single market, free of tariffs and bureaucratic impediments,” Clark said.

Clark spoke on Thursday with French Industry Minister Christophe Sirugue and PSA Group board members, who he said had told him they “value the Vauxhall brand.”

“They also emphasized that their operational approach in recent years has not been to engage in plant closures, but to focus on continuous improvements in plant performance,” Clark said.

Earlier on Monday, Prime Minister Theresa May’s office confirmed it’s working to find a day she can meet with Tavares.

“A meeting will happen,” her spokesman, Greg Swift, told reporters in London. “What we have been clear on is our determination to see Britain’s important automotive industry continue to flourish.”

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