Ford announces Bridgend plant closure

Workers at the Ford engine plant in Bridgend in 2010

Workers at the Ford engine plant in Bridgend in 2010

More bad news for Britain's auto industry, as Ford announces it's planning to close the Bridgend Engine Plant in South Wales in 2020.

Production of Ford's 1.5-liter gasoline engine will end in February while a contract to supply Jaguar Land Rover finishes in September 2020, the USA automaker said on Thursday.

Stuart Rowley, President of Ford of Europe, said "creating a strong and sustainable Ford business in Europe requires us to make some hard decisions".

Ford, which will take a roughly $650-million pre-tax charge to cover the cost of closing the plant, is making cuts in several countries to turn around loss-making operations in a stagnating European auto market.

A spokeswoman for Ford declined to comment on what she said was speculation, after the expected closure was also reported by United Kingdom media. There is a global yearly market of some 500,000 for the Dragon engine and we demand our fair share of that.

"We are committed to the UK".

Most of the engines will instead be made at its plant in Mexico, where labour is cheaper. "Unite will not stand back and let Ford turn its back on its loyal United Kingdom workforce and allow our members' livelihoods to be shredded because they are cheaper and easier to fire than their counterparts elsewhere in the world".

The Bridgend engine plant opened in 1977 and now employs around 1,700 people, including almost 400 who have already signed up to a voluntary separation program earlier this year.

The Bridgend site, which opened in 1980, covers an area of 60 acres and is one of Wales' major employers. The news comes as a further blow to the United Kingdom automotive industry, following Nissan and Honda's similar decisions in Sunderland and Swindon respectively.

Lossmaking Jaguar Land-Rover also unveiled plans to slash 4,500 staff - with the vast majority of the cuts expected in Britain.

Ford also has another engine plant in Dagenham, Essex, and a plant making transmissions in Halewood, Liverpool.

Mike Hawes, of the Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders, described it as "another crushing blow for United Kingdom automotive manufacturing".

The U.S. automaker has also repeatedly warned the United Kingdom government that it needs free trade to be maintained with the European Union after Britain leaves the bloc, but said Thursday's announcement "has nothing to do with Brexit".

Mr Rowley said later that the decision had not been taken lightly, "but it was necessary". It said the factory faced a "cost disadvantage" compared to its other plants.

"The simple way to think of that is: if Brexit had never happened, would there be a different decision?"

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