By Rebecca Burn-Callander Thursday, 25 October 2012

Ford's Southampton operation runs off the road

The last few Ford Transit vans will soon roll off the production line at Ford's Hampshire plant. The US car giant is to close its last car-making factory in the UK.

This will be a spoke in the wheel for David Cameron, who frequently eulogises about the strength of the British car manufacturing industry. Some 500 people are set to lose their jobs when the plant closes, marking the end of 100 years of Ford vehicle manufacture in the UK. Ford opened its first factory outside the US in Manchester back in 1911, so it's a historic moment for the firm - and indeed the industry.

The beans were spilled by trade unionists after Ford began circulating restructuring plans. The Southampton factory, which has manufactured around six million Transit vans over the past 45 years, will cease production by 2013, insiders reckon. Ford is planning to cut costs by moving the Transit operations to Turkey instead. Roger Maddison, the Unite union's national officer for the automotive industry, says, ‘The Transit van is associated with the ‘white van man' tradesmen in Britain and is iconic, like London's black cabs, and it will be sad to see it go.’

However, Southampton’s loss may be Dagenham’s gain. Ford is still making some of its engines here, and is planning to ramp up production of its Diesel engines and panels to meet international demand. No doubt, some of the Hampshire-based staff will be invited to move across. And with Nissan, Toyota, Honda and Jaguar Landrover all committed to ramping up their UK car-making activity, at least Ford’s erstwhile workers may find the job market slightly less unpleasant than in other industries.

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