Ford said it was spending tens of millions of euros preparing for a possible British exit from the European Union without a trade deal and had yet to decide on its longer-term plans for Britain, a media report said.
Ford Europe chairman Steven Armstrong told Reuters at an event in the Netherlands: “We love being in Britain, but it has to be competitive and if it’s not competitive then we’ll have to take whatever actions we’ll need to take to protect the business.”
Ford has already exited vehicle making in the UK but still builds 1.3m engines a year at Bridgend and Dagenham. It has warned it could face US$1bn in tariff costs – importing vehicles from Spain, Germany, Turkey, the US and Canada – in case of a ‘hard’ Brexit.
The company has announced 5,000 job cuts in Germany, its second largest European market, but has yet to make major decisions in Britain, its biggest, Reuters noted.
Unions have put the number of job cuts they expect at 1,150.
Armstrong said Ford was already spending tens of millions on euros on measures such as currency hedges and shifting stock between countries. He told the news agency the best case scenario was money spent preparing for Brexit would be “wasted”.
He told Reuters the British-built engines, exported for fitting in vehicles in Germany, Turkey, the US and other markets, could face delays and extra costs from a no-deal Brexit.
“We’ve spent the last 40 years putting a business together that relies on cross-border trading,” said Armstrong.
“We can’t radically reshape on day one so you’d have to live with (tariffs) for a period of time.”
Armstrong told Reuters Ford had hedged against the possibility of a sharp fall in the value of the pound to the end of 2019 while stockpiling inventory would help bridge a one or two month period of potential chaos around Brexit.
“But it’s impossible really to mitigate the financial impact in the longer term of no-deal,” he said. Ford could try to pass on higher tariff costs, but that would be difficult in Britain, where a recession would mean falling sales.
“We haven’t really factored in completely the negative shock. There are a number of things that we would try to do but the reality is … it would impact the whole of industry, not just Ford,” Armstrong told Reuters.