Future UK production of the Ford Transit hangs in the balance

Posted on 25 Oct 2012 by Tim Brown

Ford Motor Company have announced plans to restructure its European manufacturing operations and reverse recent losses but there are fears for UK jobs at the Ford Transit factory in Southampton.

SEE LATEST NEWS ON THE FORD TRANSIT STORY – Workers walk out at Ford following 1,400 jobs axe

Ford Motor Co management will meet British unions today in Essex amid media reports that it is planning to close the Ford Transit factory in Southampton.

A Ford spokesman declined to comment on the reports the carmaker would close the Southampton factory where it employs around 500 people.

If the site was to close, it is likely that production would be moved to the firm’s main Transit factory in Turkey – proving a huge blow to the production of the vehicle which typifies the ‘white van man’.

Transits have been built at the site for 40 years, although the workforce has halved to 500 in recent years while Ford employs a total of 11,400 workers across Britain at plants including Dagenham in Essex, Halewood, Merseyside and Bridgend, south Wales.

Ford last month warned of job cuts after predicted European losses of £800million and a 14.9 per cent sales drop in the year to September.

“The proposed restructuring of our European manufacturing operations is a fundamental part of our plan to strengthen Ford’s business in Europe and to return to profitable growth,” said Stephen Odell, head of Ford’s European operations.”

The news comes on the same day that the firm announced it would close a factory employing 4,300 workers in the Belgian town of Genk by the end of 2014, shifting production to Valencia, Spain, as the U.S. automaker tries to stem European losses.

The plant makes the midsize Mondeo, the S-MAX and the Galaxy car. It represents about 30 per cent of car production in Belgium.

All three lines are set to be moved to Valencia in Spain where the Fiesta is manufactured.

“We understand the impact this potential action would have on our work force in Genk, their families, our suppliers and the local communities,” said Mr Odell. “We fully recognize and accept our social responsibilities in this difficult situation and, if the restructuring plan is confirmed, we will ensure that we put in place measures and support to lessen the impact for all employees affected,” Odell said.

Belgian regional authorities are already looking at ways to recover some of the £46million they committed in 2010 to keep Ford rooted in the northern city of Genk.

‘It is incomprehensible and a nightmare for those people,’ said the leader of Flanders Kris Peeters.

Ford will announce today more details of its overall transformation plan for Europe during an analyst and media call at 2pm. Participants will be Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally, Ford Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks and Stephen Odell.