Plaxton shuts in France
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• Plaxton's Carrosserie Lorraine coachbuilding factory in France will close at the end of the month after the expiry of its three-year arrangement with Iveco France to build on the 370 and 315 chassis.
The Plaxton Group announced the closure in its preliminary financial results for the year ended 31 December 1991, which revealed a £2.96m pretax loss for its coach and bus building division — compared with a £700,000 loss in 1990 (CM 12-18 March).
The remaining 80 staff at the French factory are to be laid off. The factory was producing about 75 units a year.
Plaxton is also moving production of the 425 integral to its Scarborough plant. Only 12 of the 425s have been built at Lorraine since Plaxton bought the design and jigs from Duple in 1989 (CM 20-26 Feb).
The Lorraine bodies, which were mainly sold to French operators, are to be discontinued. British operators will not be affected — the 370 was not available in right-hand-drive and less than 20 Lorraine-bodied 315s were sold in the UK.
Iveco did not renew its arrangement with Plaxton because it plans to replace the Lorrainebodied coach with its own integral. The rear-engined coach, which will probably be marketed as the 390, is to be launched in Italy this autumn as a 10.6m or 12m.
Plaxton cited the 22.1m cost of closing the French factory as one of the reasons for its pre-tax profits falling with the group crashing from a 2.4.2m profit to a £6.81m pre-tax loss in 1991. It also pointed to a 40% drop in production and £2.86m exceptional charges for re-structuring and the introduction of a new coach range.
Plaxton Group chairman Michael Doherty says that short-term prospects for the coach and bus markets are not encouraging: "We will be concentrating on the reduction in capital employed, the control of overheads and improvement in efficiency."
He is proposing to change the group's name to Henlys Group because 70% of its turnover now comes from the motor distribution operation where Henlys is used as the predominant trading name.
"As Plaxton is recognised as a major coach and bus builder in the UK this name will be retained for those operations which are now concentrated in Scarborough," he says.