Almussafes breathes a tense calm. After months of uncertainty about the future of the plant Ford, the car company will communicate in the coming days to which of its European factories it will give the last two electric models that are still to be assigned (the unions expect the decision by the end of the month). In the bidding, there are only two factories: the German Saarlouis and the aforementioned Valencian plant.
Although the management of the automobile company indicated in a letter to the workers that there is no debate about the closure of either of the two factories, in Almussafes they are aware that it is key to obtain these models. Otherwise, the factory would enter a scenario of uncertainty with an exclusively combustion production for the rest of the decade. And, in addition, with a range of models that is increasingly reduced.
Last March, the Valencian plant stopped manufacturing the Mondeowhile at the end of this year it will stop making the European version of the Transit Connect, as explained by UGT, the majority union in the factory. “Next year, in principle, we will also stop making the Connect that goes to the US market, which is more powerful,” they indicate in the union. In this way, the factory, which employs 5,000 people in the manufacturing area and another 1,000 in engines, would remain in 2024 only with the production of the Kuga (his main source of work at the moment), since the S-Max and the Galaxy will also stop making them that year.
As an example of the loss of workload that the factory has been suffering in recent years, Ford Almussafes only assembled 168,000 cars in 2021, 54.5% less than those it had produced just four years ago, in 2018, when it made almost 370,000 vehicles, according to data provided by the manufacturer to this medium. Today, the factory works with two shifts, when a few years ago it did so with three.
Currently, so far in 2022, the Kuga (which has, in addition to its gasoline and diesel version, a hybrid and a plug-in hybrid option) and the Transit Connect have accounted for more than 90% of the almost 107,000 units that the factory did until May. Only the Kuga represented 59.3% of its total production in the first five months of this yeara year in which the plant has undergone numerous modifications in its ERTE days, a file that Ford has extended until the end of July.
In addition to the 6,000 direct workers employed at the factory, the rest of the Valencian automobile industry is also closely following the possible electrification of the Ford factory. According to Avia, the automotive cluster of the Valencian Community, a total of 116 companies and 25,000 people are employed in the motor sector in the region (including Ford itself). Since avian point out that, although they expect the news from Dearborn (where Ford’s world headquarters are located, in the USA) to be positive for Almussafes, they do not fear a massive destruction of employment because the companies in the sector are highly diversified.
The director of Ford in Europe, Stuart Rowley, warned in May that the plant will have to address a “resizing of its current structure”, even if it keeps the models that are disputed with the Saarlouis factory. “Exact details will not be available until we have selected a preferred plant,” Rowley said in a letter sent to company employees. This battle between both plants has even reached the political level. On the Spanish side, the Minister of Industry, Reyes Maroto, traveled to the US in April where she met with Ford executives to tip the balance in favor of Almussafes. A month later, the Minister-President of the Saarland, the German state in which Saarlouis is located, Anke Rehlinger, also traveled to Dearborn.