Britain’s Ford engine-building operation is consolidating its role as the blue oval’s global powerhouse with the Bridgend petrol and Dagenham diesel factories gearing up for a combined output of 2m power units by 2009.

This will involve the plants together producing one in four (25%) of all engines for six Ford brands around the world, covering the parent company brand, Jaguar, Land Rover, Volvo, Mercury and Lincoln. That share currently stands at 20%.

Central to this ramping up of production is an agreement with the UK’s Transport and General Workers Union and its AMICUS counterpart to add extra shifts within Bridgend’s flexible work regime in South Wales.

This would allow the Welsh facility, which builds four, six and eight-cylinder petrol engines, to maximise its current three-shift, 24-hour weekday routine as it heads for 1m engines a year by rotating teams between different assembly lines.

Last year Bridgend, where 200 new staff have been recruited, notched up an 11% output increase over 2005, while Dagenham registered a 24% volume growth, adding 250 jobs to its headcount.

Apart from supplying the wider Ford brand family with engines, Dagenham, designated as the corporation’s global diesel centre, plays its role in the joint diesel project with PSA, including the V6, twin-turbo, 2.7-litre power plant and a lively little 1.6-litre I4 turbodiesel that is widely available in Ford, Mazda, PSA and Volvo models.

Ford spokesman Oliver Rowe said: “The Bridgend plant is gearing up to produce 1m engines annually by 2009. To maintain flexibility we are likely to have teams rotating between different engine lines, and extra shifts as part of additional arrangements under consideration. It could mean shifts overlapping and equipment manned constantly during weekdays.”

Ford group vice president of global product development Richard Parry-Jones added: “We are particularly short of four-cylinder petrol engines and the planned moves will give us the opportunity to meet demand. Studies on how to achieve this are well advanced.”

The range of engines produced at Bridgend demonstrates the strength and depth of the plant’s output. It straddles 1.25, 1.4 and 1.6-litre four cylinder units (I4) , through a straight-six (I6), 3.2-litre engine shared by Volvo’s S80 and XC90 plus Land Rover’s Freelander, and is topped by V8 4.2- and 4.4-litre Jaguar and Land Rover motors.

The 3.2-litre straight-six runs on petrol or E85 bioethanol. At Dagenham, which stopped building Fiestas in 2000, the spectrum of diesel engines covers 1.4-litre, four-cylinder to 3.6-litre V8 variants, which power Range Rovers, plus the 2.7-litre V6 used in Land Rovers, Jaguar’s S-Type and XJ plus PSA models.

Hugh Hunston