Ford to close Belgian plant – UK Transit factory next?
Ford has announced that it intends to close its factory at Genk, Belgium by the end of 2014 – amid strong rumours that the UK Transit van plant in Southampton is also doomed.
The US auto giant is meeting unions at Southampton today (Wednesday 24th) and several sources are predicting a closure announcement tomorrow.
If confirmed the closure in Southampton would directly affect 500 employees. The Genk factory employs 4,300 people.
In a statement, Ford says it is proposing “to restructure its Europe manufacturing operations as part of its comprehensive plan to respond to structural market changes and deliver profitable growth in the region.”
Ford says it is reacting to overcapacity caused by a 20 per cent drop in vehicle demand across the auto industry since 2007. New vehicle sales in the region are now at a 20-year low and could fall further next year.
Ford of Europe chairman and CEO Stephen Odell describes the proposed restructuring as a fundamental part of a plan to strengthen Ford’s business in Europe and to return to profitable growth.
“We understand the impact this potential action would have on our work force in Genk, their families, our suppliers and the local communities,” Odell adds.
“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.”
If the plant does close it will bring an end to Ford vehicle manufacturing in the UK that began at Trafford Park, Manchester in 1911 – Ford’s first plant outside North America.
It was succeeded by the famed Dagenham plant opened in 1931, and a further plant at Halewood in Liverpool was opened in 1962.
Halewood built its last Ford in 2000 before reopening as a Jaguar plant. Dagenham built cars until 2002. It is now a major Ford engine plant along with Bridgend in south Wales.
Words by: Andrew Charman