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Walker exhaust plant to close by year end

Tenneco Automotive is to close its Walker exhaust system manufacturing plant in Birmingham at the end of the year, blaming a slump in UK sales. The company says the move will help to better match supply with demand.

Up to 127 employees will be made redundant, although some will be found other jobs at Tenneco's OE exhaust plant in Tredegar, Wales. Tenneco claims the move will have no impact on garage supplies, which will now come from one of Walkers four remaining European aftermarket factories in France, Spain, Sweden and Poland.

“The continuing downturn in demand for aftermarket exhaust products within the UK makes closure necessary in the face of general overcapacity due to lower volumes and the need to improve our manufacturing efficiency,” says Phil Ellis, Tenneco UK director of operations. He is in talks with the Transport & General Workers Union, which has 40 members at the plant, about relocating some employees.

The UK market has slumped 50 per cent over the past couple of years, caused by the growing popularity of longer life steel exhausts, which are replacing the traditional aluminium products.

Tenneco aftermarket vice-president Don Miller says cars used to have at least two replacement exhausts during their life – now it's rare for them to have one.

“This has been a challenging time for Walker,” he adds. “But we are at least seeing growth in emissions control and catalytic converters.”

Tenneco, which also supplies Monroe shock absorbers, says the move will not affect its UK sales, marketing and distribution operation, nor its joint venture emission control facility in Burnley.

The decision highlights problems facing UK automotive manufacturing. Swiss engineering firm Georg Fischer has also announced its British foundry in Lincoln will cease production next year, with the loss of 430 jobs.

n Tenneco has signed a one-season sponsorship with the Birmingham Bullets basketball team. The Bullets have agreed to change their name to the Monroe Reflex Bullets.

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