A VAUXHALL Motors spokesman said bluntly yesterday that if the car giant's Ellesmere Port plant had not been chosen to build the next generation Astra it would have been axed.
He told the Pioneer: 'If the decision had gone the other way the plant would have closed just before the cessation of the current Astra model.'
A total of five General Motors factories had been in frame to build the seventh-generation Astra - code-named Delta.
Apart from Ellesmere Port, these are Antwerp in Belgium, Bochum in Germany, Trollhattan in Sweden and Gliwice in Poland.
GM bosses have taken the tough decision to award the contract to four of the plants, leaving Antwerp out in the cold.
Although it will not close, it will must lose the equivalent of one shift or 1,400 people.
When production of the Astra gets into full swing in 2010, GM wants to see the four chosen plants produce,
between them, 750,000 cars a year - many more than the 535,000 currently being built.
Ellesmere Port will be expected to turn out 180,000 cars a year instead of the 125,000 it is now producing.
Vauxhall Motors chairman and GM vice-president Jonathan Browning, who was at North Road for the announcement, said that although the plant would return to three-shift working from 2010 to meet this target, it would not mean any workers on top of the current 2,200 being taken on.
The same number of people would achieve extra output by making 30% efficiency savings, he said.
This would be done with the agreement of trade unions at the plant and would be possible due to the next-generation Astra being easier to build and the flexibility of the workforce.
Ellesmere Port, explained Mr Browning, had played a significant part in the ongoing restructuring of GM in Europe and the turnaround of its financial position.
And this, he said, had helped sway the Astra decision in its favour.
He also praised the plant for three significant recent achievements, including 10 million hours of working without a single day being lost through accidents, a 76% improvement in quality from 2002 to 2006 and an increase in productivity of 13%.
After making the announcement he told the Pioneer: 'We have been working to secure the long-term competitiveness of manufacturing the UK for a long time.
'I am delighted to announce Ellesmere Port is one of those selected to build the next generation of Astra.
'This is clearly good news for everyone associated with the plant, the area and the UK motor industry.'
He added: 'It is a tremendous credit to all the hard work that has gone on at the plant and to the support received from public and local authorities.'
Mr Browning went on to say the announcement represented a total investment by GM in its European plants of 3.1 million euros.
He would not say how much of this figure related to Ellesmere Port but he did reveal the company had received financial assistance from the Department of Trade and Industry and the North West Development Agency.