Today, hardly anyone remembers that the history of the plant in Gliwice is closely related to the Warsaw passenger car factory in Żerań. In the early 1990s, General Motors, then owner of Opel, was a strong candidate for FSO’s strategic partner. The companies managed to obtain a preliminary agreement, under which between 10 and 33 thousand jobs were to be created in Żerań. Astra copies per year. FSO even allocated a hall for the Astra assembly plant, where FSO 125p was being built until 1991.
The official assembly of the Astra at the Passenger Cars Factory began on November 5, 1994.
Initially, the cooperation was good. In the summer of 1994, General Motors even modernized the Polonez (a prototype was created), copies of which were previously sent to Detroit. But then the atmosphere around the partners started to deteriorate. In January 1995 it became clear that both Astra and the Polonaise itself no longer had a future in Warsaw. General Motors proposed to FSO management to assemble the Vectra.
The failure of talks with FSO accelerated General Motors’ decision to build a completely new production plant in this part of Europe. Many locations were taken into account, but the best offer, thanks to the efforts of the then regional authorities, was made by Gliwice. Ultimately, the contract for the construction of the future factory in the Katowice Special Economic Zone was finalized in May 1996. Intensive earthworks soon began – the plant was built at an express pace of 22 months.
As a curiosity, it is worth mentioning that the first component produced in Gliwice was the spare wheel compartment. The first car left the factory gate on August 31, 1998. It was the Opel Astra F in the Classic version. The four-door Casablanca White sedan had a 1.6-liter gasoline engine under the hood. A total of 103,262 of this model rolled off the assembly line of the plant. Its production ended in 2002, when the Astra G began to leave the Polish Opel factory.
Gliwice quickly became Astra’s production center in Europe. All subsequent generations of this model were built here one after another. The factory also produced models such as the Agila, Zafira and the Cascada convertible based on the fifth generation Astra.
The first black clouds over the Gliwice plant appeared in 2017, when the news unexpectedly spread in the media about the takeover of Opel by PSA. Another bad news came in April 2019. In Germany, there was more and more talk about the transfer of Astra production to Opel’s home factory in Russelsheim.
Everything indicates that the automotive history of the plant built by General Motors will end with the end of production of the Astra. The factory – most likely – will be put up for sale, and its buildings will find new uses, e.g. as warehouses. This does not mean, however, that Gliwice will disappear from the automotive world map. On the contrary – alongside the existing factory, the Stellantis concern is just finishing the construction of a new complex, which – as previously announced – is to become the European center for the production of vans.
For Gliwice, this means an encouraging prospect – Stellantis is a leader in the light commercial vehicle segment on the European market. The SevelSud plant (FCA / PSA Joint Venture located in Val di Sangro, Italy) has not been able to meet the demand for the Peugeot Boxer, Citroën Jumper and Fiat Ducato in recent years. These models, along with the twin Opel Movano, will be produced in the concern’s newly opened factory in Gliwice, the area of which borders on the old GM plant.
The new plant is currently producing test vehicles. The first production models are to roll off the assembly line in April next year. While the decision to build a new factory right next to an old plant seems irrational, the size of the vehicles it produces must be taken into account. The construction of the new factory meant that there was no economic justification for re-scaling the production lines of the former Opel factory. The creation of a new factory from scratch will also allow for a smooth takeover of employees who previously worked on the assembly of the Astra, without downtime (the specter of layoffs) related to the “retooling” of the plant.
A rather small part of the equipment currently used for the production of Astra will be used in the production of vans. As we have already informed – selected parts of the line will go to other plants of the concern abroad.
At the beginning of next year, both companies operating in Gliwice – Opel Manufacturing Poland, producing Opel Astra, and PSA Manufacturing Poland, preparing the launch of production of vans – are to be merged. In this way, a new entity will appear on the Polish “automotive” scene – Stellantis Gliwice. Ultimately, the company will employ approximately 2,500 people, which is 500 more than the current employment of Opel Manufacturing Poland and PSA Manufacturing Poland.