Ford has announced plans to cut 1,300 jobs in the UK over the next two years, a fifth of its total workforce in the country. It is part of a major restructuring programme that will see the carmaker cut 3,800 jobs overall across Europe.
Ford Vehicles is cutting back on development staff as it faces an uncertain economic future and prepares for the transition to electric vehicles.
The BBC news service is reporting that most of the UK cuts will be at its research site at Dunton in Essex.
Several hundred back-office posts are also expected to be closed at sites across the country. But production sites at Halewood, Dagenham and Daventry will not be affected.
The Unite union said it would be working with Ford to protect “as many jobs as possible”.
The announcement comes less than two years after Ford closed its engine plant in Bridgend.
“Here in Europe we’ve got a pretty difficult economic situation, and the outlook is uncertain,” explained Tim Slatter, chairman of Ford of Britain. “High inflation, higher interest rates, the ongoing war in Ukraine, cost of energy and so on.”
But he insisted that was not the only factor. Ford of Europe is preparing for a major transformation of its business.
By 2030, it expects all the cars it builds in the region to be fully electric.
Two out of three commercial vehicles will be either electric or plug-in hybrids by the same date.
The Unite union said there needed to be “concrete plans” to transform the UK’s vehicle production and transport network and keep “high quality” jobs in the country. “Ford’s announcement is another stark reminder that the shift to electrification needs a just transition that requires long-term investment and planning from automakers and a proper industrial strategy from government,” said Unite national officer Des Quinn.
Ford Vehicles will also be attempting to move away from being seen as a mass-market supplier of relatively cheap, everyday transport.
Instead, it wants to develop a slimmer line-up of more exotic vehicles, which exploit evocative brand names – something it has already done with the Mustang Mach-E and the F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck. It also wants to focus on its portfolio of commercial vehicles, notably the Transit.
It has already ceased production of the Mondeo. In June, the final Fiesta will roll off the production line in Cologne.
The one-time best-selling runabout is no longer considered viable to make, and there will be no direct successor. The Fiesta name is expected to be consigned to history. But developing new electric cars is an expensive process – in which Ford plans to invest some $50bn (£41bn) over the next few years.
As part of this scheme, it has committed £380m to transform its gearbox factory at Halewood on Merseyside into a facility capable of producing hundreds of thousands of electric motors every year.
Ford believes that as development of traditional petrol and diesel vehicles tails off, it will require fewer product development staff – because although they require sophisticated software, electric cars are mechanically pretty simple.
So this is an area in which it thinks it can make savings. A total of 2,800 engineering jobs are to be cut across Europe, most of them in the UK and Germany.
“These are difficult decisions, not taken lightly”, said Martin Sander, European head of Ford’s electric vehicles division. We recognise the uncertainty it creates for our team, and I assure them we will be offering them our full support in the months ahead.”