Saturday 23 August 2014

Vivaro UK plant: The “crown jewels”?

The latest issue of Autocar describes the Vauxhall Van Plant in Luton, UK, which makes the Vivaro, as the “crown jewel of the motor industry”.

If this is so, then the magazine will have great difficulty in finding superlatives to describe Jaguar’s XE facility at Solihull which, for the first time in the UK, has the distinction of making aluminium body-in-white in large numbers, something that has never been achieved at Luton, which processes steel components. Added to which, JaguarLandRover stamps its own aluminium body pressings, including body sides. The Luton van plant has not stamped aluminium in its entire life! The distinguishing feature of aluminium being that it requires an extremely clean working environment, especially in the press shop.

Significantly also, the Solihull plant will use new joining techniques including the Henrob system of self-piercing rivets which have been used on a modest scale at Jaguar's Castle Bromwich facility. For the small British metal joining company Henrob, the XE will probably mark the pinnacle of its achievements thus far. Aluminium is difficult to weld which explains why self-piercing rivets (SPR) have proved so effective in body-in-white (BIW) structures with Jaguar's chief technical specialist, Mark White, leading the charge as one of the principal supporters of SPR.

Not only that, but JaguarLandRover has designed its own XE vehicle from the ground up and in total – something that has not happened with the Vivaro which uses engines made in France by Renault.

Significantly also, the XE will be powered by a new family of four-cylinder gasoline and diesel engines which will throw down a benchmark for engine manufacture in the UK – the plant in Wolverhampton being the latest engine plant to come on-stream in the UK.

The number of people still alive who can recall the day that Vauxhall made its own engines is indeed very few.

So the new XE will be a completely new vehicle from the ground up – designed and made in the UK, albeit by an Indian-owned company.

Thus for a journalist to call the Vauxhall Van Plant as the “crown jewels” is indeed stretching the couplet to bursting point. Also, for Autocar to describe the Vivaro van as a "rebadged" Renault Trafic is a suggestion with which Vauxhall will certainly not agree, especially those engineers at the Millbrook Proving Ground, Bedfordshire (and once owned by General Motors) who worked on the vehicle will not agree.

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