General Motors is rationalising its automotive testing facilities, sparking industry insiders to suggest that it could be on the brink of selling the Millbrook automotive proving ground in Bedfordshire.
GM is to focus more of its testing activities at its Vauxhall/Opel Dudenhofen facility in Germany. The carmaker has spent €28.5 million upgrading Dudenhofen, including the construction of a high-speed testing circuit and the full electrification of all control and measurement sensor technology.
Mike Ableson, Opel/Vauxhall vice-president of engineering, said: “The opening of the high-speed circuit is a milestone. This is a clear sign of our commitment to the long-term future of our development facilities in Germany. The extensions are a significant contribution to further increasing the quality of our products, and bringing affordable innovations to our customers fast.”
An industry source said that GM had been considering its options for Millbrook since the start of the year and that discussions were now “well down the line”. The sale could be completed in the next few weeks. Under any new ownership, Millbrook would be expected to continue carrying out testing work on behalf of GM, while looking to win new business from other clients.
Millbrook is itself a valuable asset. It employs more than 300 people, many of whom are professional engineers.
The 700-acre Bedfordshire site is widely viewed as one of Europe’s most advanced centres for the development and demonstration of land vehicles, from motorcycles and passenger cars to heavy commercial, military and off-road vehicles. It features a range of test tracks including a high-speed circuit, a city-handling track and a hill route. The facility also boasts a host of laboratories for activities such as crash testing, emissions monitoring and the replication of harsh environmental conditions.
In recent years, Millbrook has won contracts totalling more than 50% of its activities from third-party organisations outside the GM group. It has won business from other carmakers including Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) and from central government, testing prototype buses for Transport for London and patrol vehicles for the Ministry of Defence.
Industry insiders have suggested that JLR could emerge as a potential buyer for Millbrook to enable the carmaker to meet testing requirements for a host of planned models over the next two years. However, any such deal would result in some duplication of facilities. JLR has its own automotive proving facilities at Gaydon in the West Midlands.
Millbrook declined to comment on what it said was “speculation”.
- Located 65km (40 miles) north of London
- 40 years’ experience
- 285 hectares (700 acres)
- More than 300 skilled staff
- Secure 24/7 operations for time-critical delivery
- Semi-anechoic chamber
- Component test laboratory
- Crash laboratory
- Engine technology centre
- Exhibition facilities
- On- and off-highway test tracks
- Pedestrian protection laboratory
- Production facilities
- Safety systems laboratory
- Variable temperature emissions chamber
- Vehicle emissions laboratory
- Vehicle workshops