Ford axes British van plant to stem European losses
Ford will stop making vans in Britain next year, cutting 1,400 jobs on top of 4,300 to be axed in Belgium as part of a plan by the US car maker to stem European losses expected to exceed €1 billion this year.
It is the fourth vehicle plant closure in recession-hit Europe announced this year and comes just a day after Ford itself said it would shut its 48-year-old Genk plant in Belgium by 2014, as part of a wide-ranging restructuring programme.
The company said the moves would reduce installed vehicle assembly capacity by 18 per cent, with related gross annual savings of €340-380 million. Thirteen per cent of its European workforce would be affected by the restructuring.
Analysts said the speed of the announcements showed Ford was tackling the problem of over-capacity in Europe head-on, while other companies appeared to dither.
“With GM Europe you always wonder what’s going on – it looks like they are still bogged down in deciding what to do,” London-based UBS analyst Philippe Houchois said.
General Motors has said it would shut a factory in Belgium in 2016 and will update its restructuring plan before the end of the month.
Ford said despite the loss in Europe, total company pre-tax profit, excluding special items, was better in the third quarter than in the second and that over the long term, it was aiming for an operating margin of six to eight per cent in Europe.
A union leader said earlier the company was also closing a stamping plant which makes parts for the Transit van.
“In 2013 Ford is closing its stamping plant in Dagenham and the Transit van plant in Southampton and that could lead to the loss of a couple of thousand jobs,” said Roger Maddison, the Unite union’s national officer for the automotive industry.
“This means all production for the Transit van will move to Turkey.”
Ford’s engine plant at Dagenham in Essex escaped the cuts and is likely to see growth plans.
Analysts at Morgan Stanley believe Ford is “demonstrating the vision and industrial courage” to make tough decisions that will pay off long term.
The US autos giant employs 11,400 at British sites which also include Halewood, near Liverpool, and Bridgend in South Wales. (Reuters)