Ford cutting 1,500 UK jobs as Europe losses grow

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London • Carmaker Ford announced Thursday it will cut 1,500 jobs in Britain, closing a plant and eliminating a stamping and tooling facility, as it warned that losses in Europe will exceed $1.5 billion this year.

Ford Motor Co., which on Wednesday announced the closure of another plant in Brussels, is struggling in Europe. Sales are down as the region's economic crisis hurts demand from households and businesses.

Ford said its transit van plant in Southampton would be closed in July and the stamping and tooling facility in east London would shut sometime in 2013. Transit van production will be consolidated at the plant in Kocaeli, Turkey.

The Southampton plant, which employed 500 workers, was Ford's last vehicle assembly plant in Britain. Production has fallen from 66,000 in 2008 to 28,000 last year, when the work was reduced to a single shift.

Ford now has 11,500 workers at plants in Britain, the Unite union said.

Ford promised further investments at the Dagenham plant in east London to support production of a new 20-litre, four-cylinder low-CO2 diesel engine family, and at the Bridgend plant in Wales to support gasoline engine manufacturing.

"Investing in what we do best here in the U.K., and building on our strengths is the only way to deal decisively with the new economic reality in Europe, and help build a profitable business," said Joe Greenwell, chairman of Ford of Britain.

Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite union, said workers would fight against the closures.

"This announcement has been handled disgracefully," McCluskey said "Only a few months ago Ford was promising staff a new transit model for Southampton in 2014."

Closing the Belgian and British plants reduces vehicle assembly capacity, excluding Russia, by 18 percent, or 355,000 units, yielding annual savings of at least $450 million, Ford said.

Ford's sales were down 14.9 percent in September compared with a year ago, worse than the 10.8 percent fall for all European vehicle brands, according to Acea, the European carmakers' association.