“We have started to invest – it does not make any sense wondering whether something happens or not” Gestamp executive chairman Francisco Riberas speaking at the supplier's new facility in the UK
Gestamp says it 'made no sense' to wait until a final outcome of any exit agreement between the British government and the European Union before deciding on its further manufacturing plans in the UK.
Huge uncertainty continues to dog the fate of any London-Brussels deal as endless wrangling between both main British political parties and the wishes of the other 27 EU Member States expressed through the auspices of chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, is framed by the latter's insistence 'the clock is ticking.'
Any number of a Rubik's cube of outcomes is still possible at this stage, including a fully-fledged Free Trade Agreement, a compromise approach which might see the UK continue Single Market and Customs Union access in exchange for adhering to some basic EU tenets of faith, an abrupt departure next March with no deal, or any byzantine combination of the above.
There is some indication investment has been slowing in the UK as companies try to read the runes of any political accord, but in the absence of white smoke rising from Downing Street and the Berlaymont, Gestamp is forging ahead with its own plans.
The Spanish supplier has opened its new manufacturing facility in Wolverhampton, known as Gestamp West Midlands, safeguarding 800 jobs which will gradually transfer from its existing plant in Cannock to the new site, which has seen GBP50m (US$66m) ploughed into industrial capability upgrade.
"We have started to invest – it does not make any sense wondering whether something happens or not," Gestamp executive chairman, Francisco Riberas told just-auto at the Wolverhampton factory which will see work for JLR, Nissan, Volvo, BMW and others.
"We have not changed anything. We have invested in each of the seven plants in the UK. Our customers, of course some of them, maybe they have decided to postpone their decisions. Common sense will prevail and we are trying to put everything together. Of course the UK exports to Continental Europe and they are exporting to the UK.
"The most important for us is our customers need to feel comfortable. It does not make sense to me anyone creates a problem, but let's see what happens. This plant is a very important commitment from Gestamp to the automotive industry here in the UK. Our Group started many years ago in the North [Britain], it was in 2012 we decided to invest heavily in the UK – we are one of the important suppliers to the industry.
"For me the automotive industry has developed quite well after a period of difficulties. This [plant] is the clear proof of the comeback of the UK industry."
"The initial GBP50m injection could be doubled depending on future projects, but the immediate future for the new site will see a focus on body in white structural components and assemblies including press-hardened parts.
The site also includes hot stamping technology, aluminium facilities and will also manufacture parts for electrical vehicles.
Gestamp is present in 21 countries with 107 manufacturing plants and five in construction, 13 R&D centres and a workforce of more than 41,000 employees worldwide. Turnover in 2017 was EUR8.2bn.
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