Ford Bridgend currently makes half a million engines a year for Ford's own models ©Roger Donovan/Ford
Ford Bridgend currently makes half a million engines a year for Ford's own models ©Roger Donovan/Ford

Unite urges Ford to adapt for electric vehicles

The Unite union has called on Ford to repurpose two of its key UK manufacturing plants to build electric cars.

In a report, Electric Vehicles, Autonomous Technology and Future Mobility, which looks at the change facing the UK automotive industry, Unite said that Ford’s Dagenham and Bridgend plants should switch to making batteries and component parts for electric vehicles.

“Unite is seeking assurances from Ford that these sites will be repurposed for new EV models or battery technology,” it said.

“Ford should copy the example set by Toyota, which invested £7m into hybrid engine technology at the firm’s engine plant in Deeside, North Wales.”

The call comes after industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders revealed sales of new diesel cars fell 17.1% last year as higher taxes and pollutions fears hit demand.

A recent study by Aston University forecast a further 10% drop in sales this year and estimated that diesel cars will account for less than a third of the market by 2020. 

Ford’s Dagenham plant currently builds diesel engines for the Fiesta, Focus, C-MAX and EcoSport, as well as manufacturing 1.8-litre and 2.2-litre diesel engines for the Transit van range.

Des Quinn, Unite national officer, said the union has concerns about decline in consumer confidence around diesel cars, Brexit and its effect on the two Ford plants. 

“Confusion over diesel cars prompted by badly thought through ministerial announcement has been compounded by faltering consumer confidence and Brexit uncertainty,” he said.

Meanwhile, Jaguar Land Rover, which currently builds a quarter of a million of its engines at Ford’s Bridgend plant, plans to shift production away from there in 2020. 

In response to the report, a Ford spokesperson told SM that in Ford Dagenham, production is up in 2017 versus 2016 and new business has been secured, which will see the V6 diesel exported to the US for use in the F-Series.

"Increase in production comes after significant investment in the latest technology; fuel-efficient diesel engines and we see on-going major demand for diesel engines in the global regions supplied by Dagenham," they said.

"While Ford Bridgend has a long-established and successful record in the delivery of world-class engines, the auto industry is undergoing rapid change and, together with our union partners, we continue to look at other opportunities for the future.”

The report urged the UK government to emulate Germany and put the UK’s car industry in the fast lane of electric vehicle technology.

It said the UK government should create an industrial plan which includes investment into R&D, vital infrastructure, reskilling and the automotive supply chain and the use of positive procurement by local and central government.

Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary, said as the major success story of British manufacturing, the automotive sector needed investment to secure the industry’s world leading status. 

“No industry is static. The emergence of electric, internet-connected and driverless technology herald changes unseen since the end of the horse-drawn era,” he said.

“Unite its clear. We want investment in new sustainable technology. We want to see high-skilled secure jobs on decent pay and for the UK automotive sector to hold its own against Germany, the United States, Southern Asia and China.

“The biggest barrier to investment and innovation remains government inactivity – without proper investment in research and development, public infrastructure, procurement and public transportation, the UK will continue to lag behind.”

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