France’s Finance Minister has launched an astonishingly blistering attack on Ford’s decision to abandon a potential sale of its Bordeaux transmission plant, slamming the US manufacturer’s move as “cowardice” and a “lie.”

Huge uncertainty has shrouded the future of Ford Acquitaine Industries (FAI) at Blanquefort near Bordeaux after the American manufacturer announced its sale, but it now appears a possible takeover by Punch Powerglide with the retention of 400 out of nearly 900 jobs has been firmly rejected by the US company.

“I am revolted by this decision – I want to denounce the cowardice of Ford with whom I have been asking to speak for three days and which has not even had the courage to call,” said Finance Minister, Bruno Le Maire. “I denounce Ford’s lie…which says the Punch takeover offer is not credible although we have been working on it for months with Punch staff.

“It’s a credible and solid offer which guarantees the future of the Blanquefort industrial site. I want to denounce the betrayal of Ford towards its more-than 800 employees at Blanquefort, to whom I pay tribute because they agreed to reduce their wages…and make considerable efforts to guarantee a takeover. They have been betrayed by Ford.

“The staff, the unions…have been at the height of their responsibility where Ford has not. I want to take advantage of national representation to solemnly appeal to Ford to revise its decision and accept Punch’s takeover which guarantees the future of the industrial site at Blanqefort in Bordeaux.”

Despite not naming Punch, Ford issued a statement saying it had decided against pursuing a sale to the “potential purchaser most interested in acquiring the FAI site,” insisting the business plan carried significant risks.

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The American manufacturer added it was not confident the potential purchaser’s plans provided the level of certainty and protection, or mitigated the risk of possible future job losses, it wanted to provide to FAI employees.

“Since the beginning of the Information and Consultation process in June, 2018, our priority has been to secure a viable new owner for the FAI site and we are disappointed this has not been possible,” said a statement sent to just-auto before Le Maire’s remarks.

“We have consistently stated any purchaser must have a sustainable, long-term business plan and any agreement must be reasonable, realistic and work in the interests of FAI employees, Ford and the purchaser.”

Ford says production will stop at the facility at the end of August next year and FAI has committed not to implement any involuntary redundancies before September, 2019.

The automaker added it had presented a “comprehensive social plan including extensive redeployment leave” starting in October, 2019, a favourable early retirement programme and repositioning within GFT, together with measures to help employees relocate with new employers or pursue new career opportunities, such as business creation or reconversion training.

Labour bodies, regional Councils and the French government previously united in condemning Ford’s move, with unions in particular expressing fears the workforce, with an average of 51, will struggle to find future employment should the site close.

Ford said it had nothing to add to its earlier position following the French Finance Minister’s comments.