Ford

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FORD of Europe says it has “no plans” to replace Focus production at its German assembly plant in Saarlouis, which will close its doors in 2025.

The Blue Oval says it is seeking “alternative opportunities” for the facility, which lies close to the French border southwest of Frankfurt, including selling it to another manufacturer.

Speaking to Automotive News Europe, Ford of Europe chairperson Stuart Rowley said the plant had fallen victim to Europe’s take-up of electric vehicles and was recently passed over in favour of Ford’s facility in Valencia, Spain, for production of its next-generation EV.

“We are seeking other alternative opportunities for vehicle production at Saarlouis, including other manufacturers,” said Mr Rowley. “We do not have in our planning cycle an additional model that goes into Saarlouis.”

Mr Rowley warned that both Saarlouis and Valencia would experience “significant” reductions in the number of staff employed by Ford.

“The reality of the industry is that the production of EVs will require fewer people,” he said.

Ford of Europe employs 4600 staff in Saarlouis and 6000 in Valencia. The latter plant builds Kuga, Galaxy and S-Max models for Ford, and previously produced the Mondeo.

The company says is nearby facility in Cologne – which will produce a new SUV based on Volkswagen’s MEB architecture from 2023 – is not affected by the headcount reduction.

“We are accelerating our transformation in Europe, reimagining how we do business and building a future where amazing vehicles and relentless focus on customer experience goes hand-in-hand with protecting our planet,” added Mr Rowley.

“Bringing our all-new electric vehicle architecture to Valencia will help us build a profitable business in Europe, secure high-value employment, and increase Ford’s offering of premium electric, high performance, fully connected vehicles that meet the demands of our European customers.”

The Saarlouis facility, which in 2017 received a €600 million ($A920m) investment to tool up for the production of the current generation Focus, has been hamstrung by recent supply shortages and a fall in demand for small passenger vehicles, such as the Focus.

It has reportedly been long under threat of closure as Ford of Europe pivots to lower cost production sites. Those locations include Craiova, Romania, where it builds the Puma, and Kocaeli, Turkey, where many of Ford’s commercial van models are produced.

In a statement issued to media yesterday, Ford president and CEO Jim Farley said the decision to select Valencia as the plant best positioned to produce vehicles based on a next-generation electric-vehicle architecture was “an important stride” in the Blue Oval’s goal to achieve zero emissions for all vehicle sales in Europe and carbon neutrality across its European operational, logistic and supplier networks by 2035.

“We are committed to building a vibrant and sustainable business in Europe as part of our Ford+ plan, and that requires focus and making tough choices,” said Mr Farley.

“The European automotive industry is extremely competitive, and to thrive and grow, we can never settle for less than unbelievably great products, a delightful customer experience, ultra-lean operations, and a talented and motivated team.”

Electric-vehicle sales have grown rapidly across continental Europe – last year, it increased by 65 per cent to 2.3 million units. Ford says its plans for an all-electric future in Europe support its global goal of producing more than two million EVs annually by 2026.

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