Ford on Friday confirmed its bid for the Automobile Craiova assembly plant in Romania had been handed over to the Romanian Authority for State Assets Recovery, meeting the 5 July deadline.

The bid was formally opened by the Privatisation Commission at an event in Bucharest today.

"We are pleased to confirm that we have submitted our bid to purchase the Romanian auto plant in Craiova," said Ford of Europe president and CEO John Fleming.

"Although it is too early to discuss specifics of our proposal, we believe it offers the best combination of financial, technological and environmental commitments under which Ford would turn the Craiova facility into a highly innovative world-class manufacturing complex with significant employment opportunities."

Reuters reported yesterday that Ford was the only bidder after General Motors and Russian Machines did not follow up on earlier letters of intent.

Romania wants to sell a 72.4% stake in the domestic automaker. It had previously wanted to sell 95% of Daewoo, by adding a 22% stake owned by investment company SIF Oltenia to the tender, but state privatisation agency AVAS told Reuters the company had withdrawn from the sale.

The news agency said the government bought back the troubled car maker from its bankrupt owner Daewoo Motor in late 2006 for $US51million and paid another $10 million for debts stemming from past loans secured by the Korean company.

At the bid opening event in Bucharest, Lyle Watters, Ford of Europe's director for business strategy said: " For more than two years, we have maintained a strong level of interest in the Automobile Craiova facility. We have visited the plant on several occasions and met with management and union leaders. Now, we are very excited to arrive at the point where we can share our long-term strategic plan with the Privatization Committee.

"Our goal is to provide the people of Romania with exciting, locally-produced and high quality Ford vehicles, as well as to develop a significant export market for those vehicles that will contribute positively to the Romanian economy," Watters added.

Ford believes the facility in Craiova is a strategically important site for the company's future growth. Ford of Europe produced 1.86m units at seven assembly plants in 2006 and additional manufacturing space is needed to meet its ambitious new product and growth plans.

"If we are successful in our bid, we would expect to expand and improve the Craiova manufacturing operations, increase employment and attract additional suppliers to the area," said Fleming.

According to Reuters on Thursday, AVAS head Teodor Atanasiu has said he envisaged the buyer would have to ensure a minimum yearly output of 300,000 vehicles.

Ford Europe has plants in Germany, Britain, Belgium, Turkey, Russia and Spain.