New Combo might be built in Britain
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
The current model is produced in Zaragoza, Spain having been built in Azambuja Portugal before the van plant there was closed less than two years ago with the loss of some 1,200 jobs.
Vauxhall's replacement for the Combo may be built in Britain says managing director, Bill Parfitt. “It could be assembled at our Ellesmere Port plant, but as yet no decision has been taken,” he states.
“The successor is on the drawing board as we speak,” Parfitt says. He would not be drawn on the launch date, but two years time would be a reasonable guess.
Saved from closure last year, Ellesmere Port currently assembles Astra and Astravan and will build the new Astra, due in 2010.
His comments seem to suggest that Combo's successor will not be a rebadged Renault Kangoo despite the history of light commercial joint ventures between GM, Vauxhall's parent company, and the French group.
New Astra will employ GM's Delta platform. Due to break cover in production form towards the end of this year, the new Meriva mini-MPV will use a cut-down version of it and it will be interesting to see if it is used to underpin new Combo too. If so, then an electric version could be on the cards because lithium ion batteries are being configured to fit Delta.
While a new Combo is in the pipeline, GM has for the moment abandoned any plans it might have had to launch a Ford Ranger-rivalling pick-up in the UK and European markets says Parfitt.
“We've dusted off this project I don't know how many times, but my feeling is that we're probably best off not bothering with it at present,” he observes. “After all, the pick-up market is not huge and already features some very strong products.
“If we were to introduce one longer-term, though, we might take a look at what China has to offer,” he muses. “Under those circumstances my idea would be to bring in something that would be more of a workhorse than something that buyers might use as an alternative to a car.”
Parfitt declined to go into detail, but What Van? believes that something that's a lot more likely to appear — probably in the next 12 to 18 months — than a Vauxhall pick-up is a new rear-wheel drive van grossing at 3.5 tonnes. Likely to go up to 4.5 tonnes and possibly 5.6 tonnes, it will be the consequence of another joint venture with Renault.
Available at 3.5 tonnes, Vauxhall's current Movano is front-wheel drive and does not compete in the higher weight categories.