Last week’s announcement by GM that it would shut the Opel assembly plant in Antwerp, Belgium by the end of 2010 is likely to have wide repercussions for the brand’s European material and finished vehicle flows but logistics providers have prepared for the eventuality since the warnings given in January and have adapted their services accordingly.
When GM said back then that it intended to close the plant, questions were raised about the movement of finished vehicles through its consolidation centre at the port of Antwerp as well as the impact it would have on the rail service linking plants in Spain, Germany, Austria and Hungary through Antwerp.
At the time the company would not comment further on the implications of the closure only stating that it had announced its intent to close the plant but had made no final decision, making any comment about logistics consequences premature. “Until we have a final decision, I would not want to speculate about what might happen,” said a company spokesman.
GM’s failure to find an investor to continue operations at Antwerp by its September 30th deadline makes it clear that these questions now need to be addressed, as well as others over the rail movement of Opel components to other of the brand’s factories that are currently made at the plant.
However, the company was still unwilling to talk about the logistics consequences this week.
Opel sales in the German market dropped 37% in the first nine months of 2010 and the Antwerp shutdown is the first car plant closure in Europe since 2006.
For the company’s logistics providers the news has been taken with stoic resilience. NYK, which moves GM vehicles from the ports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge, simply stated that the closure would not affect their service, while Ewals Cargo Care reported that while the closure will affect its material flows, it may even lead to an increase in activity.
“GM’s re-shuffling of production volumes does and will mean local or regional changes for material flows and is thus having an impact on our operation,” the company’s managing director Ulrich Selders told Automotive Logistics News. “But overall business volumes will rather increase than decrease following the general economical development, and ECC is ambitious to participate in this.”
He added, “The recent announcement to definitely close the Antwerp plant was no surprise to us and has already been anticipated in our plans for the future.”