Car giant Stellantis has appointed former Nissan executive Paul Wilcox as the new chief executive of British brand Vauxhall.
The appointment comes as the group warned that a decision about future investment into Vauxhall’s UK operations could come “within weeks”.
Speaking at an event to mark the merger of Peugeot owner PSA and Italian-American giant Fiat Chrysler, Stellantis boss Chris Tavares said that the firm had to weigh the impacts of the UK’s departure from the EU and the decision to ban new petrol and diesel car sales from 2030.
The decision marks an early test for carmakers, many of whom had previously warned that Brexit could lead to their reconsidering their presence in the UK.
As a result of the Brexit deal, Tavares said that Stellantis would only be able to make its electric vehicle investment in either the UK or Europe.
“The biggest market is on the continental European side so if you look at it from a pure logistic perspective or from a paperwork perspective, perhaps it is better to put it in continental Europe”, Tavares said.
He added that investment decisions would be taken in light of “the UK government’s willingness to protect some kind of automotive industry in its own country, which is about their own strategy”.
In 2019 PSA said that it wanted to keep Vauxhall’s plant at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire, where it makes the Astra, open after Brexit.
But now Tavares and his fellow execs must decide whether British plants are still viable export operations.
He did, however, repeat a pledge not to close any factories as a result of the new merger, which created the world’s fourth-biggest carmaker with a value of $50bn.
Tavares hailed Ellesmere Port, as well as Vauxhall’s van factory at Luton, as “strong assets”.