Ford's planned decision to shut its Belgian operations in Genk and the Transit site at Southampton, as well as axe stamping and tooling at Dagenham, are the inevitable consequence of the plunging fortunes of Europe says The Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The US automaker announced its intention to shut down and downsize the European plants last week with the immediate loss of more than 5,000 jobs and potentially far more as the effects trickle down to the supply chain.

But the SMMT maintains it understands the rationale behind Ford's move, despite expressing regret at the redundancies involved.

"Obviously we are very disappointed and this is very difficult for those affected and their families," SMMT chief executive, Paul Everitt, told just-auto. "If you take a step back from the immediate personal impact, the driver for this is the difficult situation we see in Europe and the decline in the market place.

"The instability within the Eurozone and austerity means in most of the major markets, growth is uncertain. Against that background, manufacturers are having to look very closely at what their capacity is. Ford is following General Motors and PSA [Peugeot Citroen].

"It is the inevitable consequence of the changes of the market place in Europe. We are going to have a bumpy six to 12 months."

Despite the news of Ford's downsizing, Everitt stressed the robustness of the UK automotive sector, highlighting the creation of 15,000 new jobs with more to follow as extra models come on stream.

The SMMT chief added he did not think the UK government could have done much to alter Ford's business decision and despite the job losses, Everitt pointed to the automaker's commitment to research and development as well as engineering manufacturing.

"I am not sure government could have brought about a different outcome," said Everitt. "You can't change the course of a major restructuring because the pressure on the individual companies from the losses they are sustaining on the European market, are very significant.

Ford says it plans to shut its Southampton Transit plant in southern England and also axe stamping and tooling operations at its Dagenham complex, east of London, in a move that will cost more than 1,000 UK jobs, although union estimates are vastly higher.

The planned closure of Genk in Belgium will also lead to 4,300 redundancies, although this could be far greater when taking into account any supply chain effects.

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