GWENT: A £500 million investment is thought to be on its way to the Ford engine plant in Bridgend, Wales, writes Robin Roberts in the Western Mail. A new Duratec engine production line will create several hundred jobs both in the plant and a new supplier park next door.

Ford directors due to meet next month are expected to rubber stamp the development. The plant is presently favourite to build the company’s new Duratec family engines currently supplied from the United States for the new Mondeo and forthcoming Jaguar X-type.

The same engine, or derivatives of it, is also destined to be used in other cars made by Ford’s Premier Automotive Group, including Volvos and Land Rovers. Bridgend has won a lot of praise throughout the Ford empire for its efficiency and quality in building the Jaguar-designed 4.0 litre V8 engine used in the XK and XJ models and managers at the Welsh plant are keen to build on its reputation within the company.

Winning the latest engine contract would take Bridgend a step nearer becoming the biggest supplier of engines in the PAG family at a time when the current Zetec engines are nearing the end of their lives.

The Western Mail cites American sources as saying that the in-line four-cylinder 2.0 litre, and the 2.5 and 3.0 litre V6 Duratec power units currently made in Ohio are destined to be relocated to Bridgend from next year. However, the move could be delayed by US unions under American law.

If approved, the project would allow Ford to reduce the cost of shipping completed engines across the Atlantic to its European production lines. This would save money, improve delivery times and ensure continuity of production.

It would also make financial sense as it would remove currency fluctuations caused by movements in the US dollar’s value against the Euro and allow more stable planning in successive years.

However, the Western Mail says, the new engine creates the need for an aluminium castings plant currently being constructed on land outside the Ford boundary fence at Bridgend.

Further suppliers are also being encouraged to consider setting up production or assembly facilities on neighbouring land acquired when Ford moved to Wales 20 years ago.

Apart from powering the new Mondeo, the same engine in retuned form will be used in the new baby Jaguar to be made at the former Ford Escort plant at Halewood on Merseyside.

The new Jaguar X-type will be built in much larger numbers than any other car in Ford’s prestige family and it will demand a constant source of engines for the initial saloon and subsequent touring and coupe models. This model alone is expected to account for 85,000 of the V6 engines in both 2.5 and 3.0 litre forms.

Ford’s Valencia plant in Spain is also hoping to win the lucrative Duratec investment and, should this happen, its Zetec SE engine production lines would be moved to Bridgend instead. However, this is thought to be the least likely scenario.

Talks have been held between Ford executives and the Welsh National Assembly over possible funding of the Bridgend investment and an announcement could be made before the end of November.