Ford New Zealand has denied rumours that part of the company is to be sold, saying that it's business as usual at the Manukau City alloy wheel factory in south Auckland, according to the New Zealand Herald.

Ford New Zealand's public and government affairs manager Lisa Franklin told the newspaper: "It's not surprising that there are rumours around because there have been [several] over the past couple of years - but at the moment we're not aware of anything. Surely, we would know."

On Monday, Ford was reported to be in advanced talks to sell part of its New Zealand operations for $US500 million ($NZ1.1 billion) to a US engineering firm.

"That's just crazy, it's a tiny operation in Manukau," added Ms. Franklin. "We've only just ramped up to 1.8 million units so if you did a few sums you'd realise that."

Although the Manukau plant was a successful and viable business, often attracting speculation about a possible sale, Ms Franklin could not offer any explanation for the latest rumour.

"It's just every now and then these things surface and I guess that's a by-product of being a successful operation," she said.

Employing over 550 staff, the New Zealand factory has more than doubled its foreign exchange earnings over the last three years to $NZ135.8 million ($US582,000) a year.

This is despite having faced closure in the early 1980s following the end of its original transmission and suspension component manufacturing and assembly operation.

However, Ford closed an adjacent CKD car assembly plant, a joint venture with Mazda, in the late 1990s after the New Zealand government reduced import tariffs on fully built-up cars to a level that made local assembly unprofitable.

The Manukau plant produces alloy wheels, 95 percent of which are exported to Ford plants in the United States, with the remainder going to Ford Australia.



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