Ford Otosan on Wednesday officially opened its new Gebze engineering facility, which, the automaker said, is bringing new, highly skilled engineering jobs to the Istanbul region.

With approximately 200 engineers and staff, the $US1.2m facility will provide engineering services for Ford Otosan and to Ford of Europe's primary product development centres in Dunton, UK, and Merkenich, Germany.

"This is good news for Ford of Europe, Ford Otosan and of course for Turkey," said Ford of Europe president and CEO John Fleming.

"The creation of this new facility is being driven by a broader expansion in our product development capacity to drive [our] aggressive, product-led transformation for sustained profitability.

"With Ford of Europe's sales revenue and production volume steadily increasing, we have more need for the engineering services which the Gebze facility can provide," added Fleming. "This project has for us the big advantage of being managed by Ford Otosan, which is itself based on our very successful joint venture relationship with the Koç group. So this is an excellent opportunity, with strong government support and driven by our local partners, to take advantage of the availability here of highly qualified engineers to ease the pressure in our product development facility."

The new facility is in the TUBITAK research park, about 40km (25 miles) from Istanbul. Ford of Europe is an equal shareholder in Ford Otosan with Turkey's Koç Holdings.

The new development is the latest chapter in the 30-year partnership that created Ford Otosan, which already serves as a manufacturing source for light commercial vehicles. The manufacturing facilities are centred in Kocaeli, approximately 80km (50 miles) from the new engineering facility.

"This is a major step forward for Ford Otosan," said general manager Mike Flewitt. "Establishing this new technical facility underlines our commitment to Turkey as an excellent environment for business and a rich source of well-educated engineering talent.

"We recognised early on that Turkey was a fertile market for highly skilled graduates with technical degrees. That played a key role in the selection of a location for our manufacturing plant, and Gebze is the next step in that success story."

Closeness to Istanbul and integration within the research park are key factors in the ability of the new facility to recruit top Turkish engineering specialists. Ford Otosan's well established reputation in Turkish industry is also a major recruitment factor.

Engineers will provide expertise for regional Ford Otosan projects and support Ford of Europe's product development centres. Advanced technical data networking and systems will integrate Gebze into Ford's global product development team.

Gebze's employment is expected to reach approximately 200 by mid-2008.

Otosan was established in 1959 as the first automotive company in Turkey. It produced the first Turkish car, the Anadol, in 1969 and established the first engine plant in 1983.

Ford Otosan was created in 1977, when Ford and Otosan entered into a licensing agreement to produce Ford vehicles. Ford took a 30% stake in Otosan in 1987 and 10 years later, grew its ownership to equal Koç Holdings' 41&.

This agreement laid the groundwork for the building of a new automotive plant in the Marmara region whose significance has grown in importance for Ford.

Today, Ford Otosan assembles for Ford of Europe the 2007 Transit (also built at the Southampton plant in the UK) and the Cargo heavy truck.

Ford Otosan also operates a parts distribution centre in the Kartal district of Istanbul that is one of the largest facilities of its kind in the country.

The new development reflects the continued growth of the industrial economy in Turkey which has established a significant automotive sector which contributes to its gross domestic product and exports.

Auto market intelligence
from just-auto

• Auto component fitment forecasts
• OEM & tier 1 profiles & factory finder
• Analysis of 30+ auto technologies & more