With the closure over a number of years of Fords’ Dagenham and Southampton assembly plants, and the transfer of Halewood assembly plant to Jaguar Land Rover, Ford have no vehicle assembly operations in the UK, leaving many people to assume that the long-established name of Ford is no longer truly linked with Britain.
Yet nothing could be further from the truth, as a chat with Charlotte Ward, Ford (of Britains’!) Chief Product Press Officer recently confirmed.
Rather than carrying out a little of each of its key functions, ranging from engine design to vehicle assembly, piecemeal in a proliferation of countries, Fords’ canny game today is to establish larger and truly global centres of excellence around the world. Britain plays a number of key roles in this strategy, particularly in engines & transmissions.
In the Research & Development field, the Dunton Technical Centre in Essex is the largest of its type in the UK, employing 3,500 highly skilled designers, engineers and support staff, and is the European Centre of Excellence for Powertrain and for Commercial Vehicles. The Dagenham Diesel Centre also provides powertrain design and engineering (diesel and petrol) and both sites are largely responsible for the design & development of Fords’ new era of award-winning low-CO2 engines in both petrol and diesel forms. A next-generation, low-CO2, 2.0-litre diesel engine family has also recently been announced, to be designed and manufactured in UK (Dunton & Dagenham) from 2016.
Indeed, Ford have invested over £1.5 billion in low-carbon and environmentally friendly engine and vehicle technology investment in the last five years, making them the second largest automotive R & D investor in the UK.. As well as this extensive design & development effort, Ford also manufacture engines & powertrains extensively in the UK, at three locations.
- Their Bridgend, South Wales, plant made 741,073 petrol engines in 2013.
- Dagenham, now turned over to diesel engine production, manufactured 787,398 engines in 2013.
- The Getrag / Ford joint venture transmission plant at Halewood makes 530,000 gearboxes per year.
These figures are no flash in the pan, one-year-wonder: Fords UK engine operations at Bridgend & Dagenham have in fact have made 33 million units over the last 30 years. Far from being a Ford manufacturing backwater, over 50% of global Ford engine demand is manufactured by Dagenham, whilst it is envisaged that an amazing one in three Ford vehicles globally could be powered by a UK-built engine! All this manufacturing is good news for Britains’ economy. Ford directly employs some 13,700 people in the UK, and indirectly support a further 70,000-plus UK jobs. As well as employment, investment in the UK manufacturing base is huge, with for example a £24 million investment programme ongoing at Bridgend engine plant for the new 1.5 litre Ecoboost engine. A high percentage of the materials & components for these powertrains is sourced in Britain rather than overseas: Purchasing spend with the UK supply base is over £1.6 billion.
Good news for Britains exports too: 1.33 million engines, 85% of those built by Ford in the UK in 2013 were exported, earning over £1.5 billion in exports. Engines are exported to more than 15 countries over six continents.
Even the dealer network makes an important contribution to the UK. Ford currently has the largest UK dealer network with over 550 separate locations. Given Fords annual sales, that is no surprise, for they have held passenger car leadership in the UK for 38 consecutive years, and light commercial vehicle leadership for 49 years!
With statistics such as these, we should have no doubt that the company is still truly ……………Ford of Britain!