It was not, to put it mildly, the best week for autoworkers, at least this side of the pond. A sharpened American axe appeared over a long-established automatic transmissions factory in Bordeaux, France, (see, they make more than fine wine there). Should the automaker not secure a buyer for its Ford Aquitaine Industries (FAI) site at Blanquefort in south west France, the factory will close, although no forced redundancies would be implemented before September 2019. Not good news.
I can recall reading about the opening of Bordeaux in 1972, probably in a three-month-old seafreighted copy of Autocar shipped to the Antipodes, to where some of those French-made gearboxes, either in KD assembly kits, or built-up Ford cars, surely duly followed (there were big Ford assembly plants both sides of the Tasman and even a manual ‘box plant in New Zealand under a long-ago-ended free trade agreement). Ford’s corporate website says Bordeaux’s current work is “machining and assembly of component parts” employing 1,030 people while a second Ford website says the site houses the Bordeaux Transmission Plant Joint Venture (50% Ford/50% Getrag) employing 850 making IB5 transmissions for Fiesta, Fusion, [the now defunct Romanian made] B-Max, Focus, C-Max and Mondeo, all of which are (or were) built in various European assembly plants.
Our first two stories originated from both French and local city governments and had no details of the actual transmission products Bordeaux makes but we reported three years ago the (manual) IB5 (which was also used by MG Rover for a few years until its demise) was being replaced by a new series of MX65 transmissions being made in four factories worldwide. Though Ford’s ownership of the plant dates back to 1972, as we note in our QUBE database, “Getrag Ford Transmissions (GFT) was established in 2001 when Ford hived off its European manual transmission manufacturing capability to the new joint venture. GFT has since extended its presence beyond Europe with the creation of GETRAG (Jiangxi) Transmissions in 2007, a JV between Jiangling Motors, Getrag and GFT based in Nanching. The joint venture produces the dual clutch transmission for the Qoros 3 and other models while a further joint venture in China with Dongfeng Motor called Dongfeng Getrag began production of DCTs in April 2016.”
At least one Ford-Getrag DCT transmission, branded Powershift in some markets, has proven troublesome for Ford, particularly in Australia, so I wonder if that, and the availability of (presumably) larger and cheaper manufacturing capability elsewhere is behind the automaker’s decision to sell Bordeaux? Guess we’ll see, soon enough. As expected, the ‘stupified’ union has now weighed in, noting, with an average staff age of 51, those made redundant will struggle to find further employment (just ask the former Ford workers in Genk, Belgium who struggled to find new jobs after their Mondeo plant was closed).
This side of La Manche, more auto jobs nervousness as Tata Motor’s Jaguar Land Rover announced plans to move next generation Discovery production from the Land Rover factory in Solihull, central England to its (currently under-construction) new plant in Slovakia. JLR is planning to use capacity at its Solihull plant for a new generation of Range Rovers but the sourcing switch of Land Rover’s biggest selling model will raise fears over job losses and the company has acknowledged that there may be. “The potential losses of some agency employed staff in the UK is a tough one but forms part of our long-term manufacturing strategy as we transform our business globally,” JLR told just-auto. There are around 1,800 agency workers in the Solihull plant, here in the West Midlands, of a total workforce of 10,000. Disappointingly for its workers, JLR had said previously Discovery output would be split between Solihull and Slovakia.
We also learned the global automotive industry is coming under increasing pressure from rising incidents of supply chain disruption, commented on the megatrend to ‘buying’ cars on subscription, and reported on Mercedes-Benz Vans’ claims its redesigned Sprinter large van line sets new standards for digitisation and connectivity.
Have a nice weekend.
Graeme Roberts, Deputy Editor, just-auto.com