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Vauxhall pinning all hopes on new Vectra.

THE car that could send Vauxhall's Cheshire plant into overdrive - or slam on the brakes - has rolled off the production line at Ellesmere Port.

Managers at the GM-owned factory admitted that the new Vectra could make or break Vauxhall's Merseyside plant.

The car rolling off the line yesterday amid ceremony and cheers was completed ahead of a May launch and executives say they cannot afford any mistakes.

"We fully understand the quality of the vehicle has to be right at launch, " admitted US boss Arvin Jones, who joined Vauxhall from parent General Motors 16 months ago.

Jobs and costs are being slashed across General Motors Europe to reverse losses of almost pounds 1bn. A pounds 567m profit in 1995 slumped to a pounds 372m loss last year due to increased competition, especially from Halewood's X-Type 'baby' Jaguar.

Sales of the last Vectra model, made at Vauxhall's Luton plant, were hit after a scathing review by television motoring critic Jeremy Clarkson.

"This vehicle is a key vehicle for General Motors Europe, " Mr Jones admitted.

"But this vehicle launch will be great. It has to be - you don't get a second chance.

Sales aren't made in recovery - they're made on being up front."

Ellesmere Port will make the new Vectra hatchback, followed by the sporty Vectra GSi model, on the same line as their successful Astra model.

Vauxhall workers built their very first new Vectra just before Christmas and two more have rolled off the line since then for testing before production cranks up in April.

The cars are expected to hit showrooms in May.

Although the plant will gear up to an extra third shift for the new Vectra in June, there will not be any new jobs.

Vauxhall's Project Olympia is cutting jobs and costs in a bid to break even by the end of this year and avoid the complete closure of one of its European plants.

But Mr Jones warned: "If we don't embrace this we know what the answer is."

Ellesmere Port has had pounds 200m of investment for the new Vectra and Mr Jones is delighted with the results.

CAPTION(S):

THIS IS IT: Vectra staff with the new model which was launched at Ellesmere Port yesterday
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jan 10, 2002
Words:371
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