GMB, the union for Ford workers in Bridgend, has reacted with shock to today’s announcement.
Regional organiser Jeff Beck said: “We’re hugely shocked by today’s announcement, it's a real hammer blow for the Welsh economy and the community in Bridgend.
“Regardless of today’s announcement GMB will continue to work with Ford, our sister unions and the Welsh Government to find a solution to the issue and mitigate the effects of this devastating news.
“What makes it worse is Donald Trump is in this country talking about a possible trade deal between the UK and the US – yet when the plant closes the new line is likely to be produced in Mexico by an American company. “So much for the special relationship Mr Trump.”
Ian Price, CBI Wales director, said: “The planned closure of Ford’s Bridgend plant is a blow to the lives of all who work there and in its supply chains, as well as to the Welsh economy.
“The workers must be given every help in re-training, upskilling and finding new opportunities. Despite the bad news, we welcome that Ford recognises its obligations and is proposing a plan to ease the impact.
“The Welsh Government and Westminster must do all in its power to sustain manufacturing in our country, and support industries under threat from a range of challenges, from automation to a slowing global economy.”
Dr Jonathan Owens, supply chain and logistics expert at the University of Salford Business School, says there are many factors to the decision, including falling car sales and issues around diesel engines, among others. Dr Owens said: “This closure will lead to the loss of 1,700 jobs, with at least a further 3,000 in the supply chain, to deliver yet another significant blow to UK car manufacturing.
“Possibly this has not been quite as a surprise as other recent UK car manufacturing industry announcements. Production at the site has been declining for a while now, which perhaps contributed somewhat to Ford’s changing direction with their original investment plans of £181m at the facility to £121m. When the original investment was first announced it was described as one of the world’s most advanced production lines embracing the latest types of robot assembly machines alongside highly skilled operators and engineers. However, by 2016 its production was halved to 125k engines a year. So, although with the new Dragon engine came into production, perhaps some noteworthy changes were already starting to appear on the horizon for the plant back in 2016.
“Also, the decline in sales for the larger engines at JLR has seen them take the work back in-house at their engine factory in Wolverhampton from 2020. Therefore, no longer outsourcing this work to Ford’s Bridgend engine factory, and subsequently further reducing production capacity from next year.
“Brexit uncertainty has played a small role as the plant has supply chains to Ford’s production facilities across Europe, and they rely on a smooth uninterrupted flow of components and engines and currently no one knows how this will happen.
“For the consumer a useful barometer is the sales of cars during the new registration period which typically accounts for a third of annual sales, overall these were down about 16,000 when compared to the previous year. The vilification of diesel continued with sales falling over 21%, petrol sales rose to just over 5.1%, however the clear winner for the consumer sales was the electric/hybrid modules rose to just fewer than 8% of sales, which accounted for 5.5% of new sales for the March 2019 registration period.
“But the main problem is that Ford have not moved quickly enough from their traditional markets. They have to speed up in getting fully into mass electric vehicles with significant competing range, especially if they want a piece of the EV market. Ford plans to release 16 fully electric vehicles within a global portfolio of 40 electrified vehicles by 2022. This is too late for Bridgend.”