Plant closures not ruled out

Ford to cut thousands of jobs in Europe

Der Schriftzug von Ford auf einem Fahrzeug.

Ford is planning to cut thousands of jobs in Europe but which locations will be affected and the exact numbers, have not yet been determined.

Cologne. Ford is the only U.S. car manufacturer in Germany and business has not been going well for some time now. It wants to return European production to profitability, which will mean thousands of job cuts. The Cologne plant currently has 18,000 workers.

Business has not been good for Ford in Europe; the carmaker is repositioning itself and wants to cut thousands of jobs.

Of the approximately 50,000 workplaces, "a considerable number" will be cut, said Ford European head Steven Armstrong in Cologne. In Germany, about 24,000 people work for Ford, most of them in Cologne.

Armstrong did not want to say how many workers would lose their jobs in Cologne as there were still ongoing discussions with the employees about the individual locations, he said. By mid-2019 at the latest, details should be known.

By the end of 2018 Ford had already announced the closure of a small transmission plant in Bordeaux, France, and cuts at its plant in Saarlouis.  The C-Max compact van has been produced for years in Saarlouis, the second largest location in Germany for Ford.  Production of the C-Max is to be discontinued in mid-2019 because of lower demand for the compact vans. Around 6,000 people work in the plant; one of three shifts is to be eliminated. In general, Ford Europe wants to "streamline" its range of passenger cars and expand its business with commercial vehicles and import models.

Although no concrete figures have yet been determined for Cologne, it is likely that the plant with 18,000 workers will be affected. Armstrong made it clear: "The cuts will be made in all divisions."  The company will seek to achieve the cutbacks through voluntary measures as much as possible, for example through partial retirement or severance payments.

In Great Britain, two locations are to be merged. If the boundaries between London and Brussels were to harden, the carmaker's cuts in the United Kingdom would be deeper than previously planned. "If we get the wrong result and have a hard Brexit, then one could expect the consequences to be much more dramatic than what we now have in mind," Armstrong said.

Ford has struggled in Europe for a long time. 2018 was also a year of losses, Armstrong said. He did not give any concrete numbers, but stressed: "It is important that we make significant progress in 2019". The goal is to return to profitability. 

Why isn't Ford able to thrive in Europe? There is no single reason, Armstrong said. "If you look at the past decades, Ford Europe has never been sustainably profitable”. You can only invest where it's worth it. This means that the restructuring of the European market is now crucial.

"Ford has a structural cost problem because the cars are sold almost exclusively in Europe and not on the world market." This puts them at a significant disadvantage compared to their competitors. The problem can only be solved with a sale or if a business partner is found. A withdrawal from Europe with consequences also for the Cologne location cannot be ruled out.

(Orig. text: dpa, Translation: Carol Kloppel)