The first new car to be produced at Ellesmere Port was a Vauxhall Viva HA, a model name that would run in a number of variants until 1978 when it was replaced by the Chevette.
The Viva cost £527 7s 11d at launch. The first Astra, Vauxhall’s first front-wheel drive car, was built on 16th November 1981. Astra has since become Vauxhall’s best seller and continues in production to this day.
Ellesmere Port was built on the site of RAF Hooton with construction starting in 1962. It should have been called Vauxhall Hooton Park but this was changed shortly before production began as it was deemed to be too close, phonetically, to Luton which could have caused much confusion internally.
The factory came to west Cheshire as a result of a Government strategy to develop production plants with the ‘Big Five’ motor manufacturers in new industrial development areas across the country. Vauxhall, Ford and Standard Triumph chose the Liverpool/Wirral/Merseyside region. The Board of Trade offered financial inducements including 40% towards plant and machinery costs and 25% towards construction.
Ellesmere Port has weathered a number of motor industry storms over the years and was recently threatened with closure. The determination of the strong workforce working closely with the management team and UNITE The Union has ensured the plant’s survival into the next decade with the allocation of the next generation Astra. Production of the new model will start in the autumn of 2015 with Ellesmere Port being the lead plant of only two producing this important model across Europe.