Ford cuts European capacity
Ford has announced that it will shutter its Genk, Belgium, car assembly plant, the Transit cab-chassis factory in Southampton, England, and tooling and stamping units at Dagenham, near London. The company is taking decisive action to address the problem of losing money in Europe. In the face of a declining west European car market, it's a big step - if a painful one - to removing overcapacity and lowering Ford's European costs.
Ford of Europe insists last week's announcement of its planned closure of its Genk, Belgium and Southampton, UK, plants as well as the axing of tooling and stamping work at Dagenham, is 'absolutely necessary.'
Burning cars, blockaded trains, strewn debris, the full fury of Belgium's unions was unleashed this week as the enormous impact of Ford's drastic axing of its Genk plant became clear.
As you'd expect, our coverage of Ford's major restructuring announcements dominated the news on just-auto.com this week, and print and electronic coverage nationwide and in Belgium.
Ford of Europe said it would add new engines and increase staff at its Bridgend, Wales, plant despite coming under a barrage of fire from UK unions following its decision to drastically end British vehicle production and associated stamping and tooling operations.
Ford of Europe is emphasising capacity utilisation as one of the prime drivers behind its decision today (25 October) to close its Transit plant at Southampton, UK.
Ford of Europe has hit back at Belgian unions which claimed to have signed a deal with the automaker to keep production at the now-doomed Genk plant.
Ford has confirmed it will close its Southampton Transit plant in southern England and also axe stamping and tooling operations at its Dagenham complex, east of London.
Ford's largest union at its doomed Genk plant says it will examine the agreement it maintains it signed with the US automaker a few weeks ago and which it believed would see continued production at the Belgian plant.
Ford unions in Belgium say they have put the automaker's Genk plant under "siege" as anger continues to mount following the manufacturer's decision to completely shut the site with 4,300 job losses.
On a day (25 October) the UK government announced some positive growth in the recession-hit economy, Ford is widely expected to announce the closure of its Transit chassis cab-producing plant in the UK port of Southampton later.
Belgian employer and technology body, Agoria, is estimating today's (24 October) news from Ford it is to shutter its Genk plant could cost a possible 9,500 jobs, will slash the country's GDP by 0.3% and affect 40 suppliers.
The decision by Ford to close its Genk manufacturing plant underscores the problem faced by volume car players in Western Europe's declining car market. The problem, in a nutshell, is matching supply with demand in a market that is more than 20% off where it was in 2007.
Ford says it met its union representatives this morning to discuss the closure of the Genk plant, but that senior management have travelled directly to Brussels to see the Flanders President and Belgian Prime Minister.
Ford said on Wednesday (24 October) it had started "a consultation process" in Belgium on plans to close its Genk plant and to cease vehicle production there by the end of 2014.
Informed sources in Belgium have told just-auto Ford is to completely shutter its Genk plant in 2014.
Major Belgian trade union, ABVV Metaal, says Ford is creating a climate of "fear" ahead of tomorrow's (24 October) crunch meeting at the automaker's Genk site with the labour body bracing itself for a major restructuring announcement.
Belgian unions are currently blockading the gates of Ford's Genk site as it has emerged only one topic - 'European crisis' - will be on the agenda of tomorrow's (24 October) emergency meeting.
Timing for the start-up of European production on the next generation Ford Mondeo is a 'critical variable' in the company's decision-making over its European capacity footprint, according to an analyst at LMC Automotive.
Industriall European Trade Union (IETU) says the emergency meeting called by Ford with its unions at 09:00 (CET) in Belgium tomorrow (24 October) could escalate into a wider Continent labour issue.
Union officials in Belgium say it appears Ford has called an exceptional European Works Council meeting for Wednesday (24 October) at the automaker's Genk site, sparking fears the plant's closure could be on the agenda.
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