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Vauxhall to 'halt' production as COVID-19 hits demand

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ELLESMERE PORT, ENGLAND - MARCH 06:  A view Vauxhall's assembly plant in Ellesmere Port on March 6, 2017 in Ellesmere Port, England. French car giant PSA Group have announced today the acquisition of General Motors' European, which includes the Opel and Vauxhall brands for 2.2 billion euros (GBP 1.9bn). The sale includes UK based Vauxhall which has assembly plants in Luton and Ellesmere Port.  (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Vauxhall's assembly plant in Ellesmere Port. The carmaker said that the pause had nothing to do with the ongoing discussions over the plant's future. Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Vauxhall will temporarily pause car production at its Ellesmere Port plant from Monday, as the coronavirus pandemic caused a slump in demand.

According to the BBC, which first reported the announcement, the company is temporarily shutting down production at the Cheshire site, which employs over 1,000 people, for six shifts.

The carmaker said that the pause had nothing to do with the ongoing discussions over the plant's future.

Vauxhall's parent company Stellantis is currently in talks with the UK government over whether it will develop its new Astra model at the plant.

Stellantis — the new firm formed by the merger of Peugeot owner PSA and Renault — has asked for government support to keep the plant open. The company is also reportedly seeking incentives to make fully electric cars.

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has previously said that he is "absolutely committed" to securing the future of car manufacturing at Ellesmere Port.

Kwarteng has said he has held and will continue to hold talks with Stellantis, including with subsidiary Vauxhall, which runs the plant, and unions such as Unite.

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The coronavirus pandemic, which has impacted many sectors including the car industry, has caused "the new vehicle market to fluctuate," a Vauxhall spokesperson told Yahoo Finance.

The spokesperson added: "From the start of the COVID crisis, we manage our output activity daily, plant by plant, adapting our industrial activity to the automotive market trends and by taking into account the different situations we are facing."

It comes as new industry figures showed that the UK new car market declined by 35.5% in February as 28,282 fewer units were registered.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), said February is generally a “traditionally weak month for new vehicle uptake” but this year was particularly bad due to the pandemic and showroom closures. The industry recorded its lowest February uptake since 1959, with 51,312 new cars registered.

WATCH: Vauxhall plant in the balance: Kwarteng 'very hopeful' of Ellesmere Port deal

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