Ford's Halewood factory

Ford to electrify Halewood plant with £230m investment

Image credit: PA Media

Automaker Ford is to invest hundreds of millions of pounds (including public subsidies) in one of its UK sites to manufacture electric vehicle (EV) components, prompting gratitude from unions.

The company said its Halewood plant in Merseyside will be “transformed” for the purposes of building electric power units for future all-electric passenger and commercial vehicles for European customers. It will the first of Ford’s EV component in-house assembly site in the region.

Production will begin mid-2024, with capacity planned to rise to around 250,000 units a year.

Ford confirmed the £230m investment is subject to, and includes a reported £30m of Government support through its £1bn automotive transformation fund. The fund aims to support the development of a high-value end-to-end domestic EV supply chain.

“This is an important step, marking Ford’s first in-house investment in all-electric vehicle component manufacturing in Europe,” said Stuart Rowley, president of Ford of Europe. “It strengthens further our ability to deliver 100 per cent of Ford passenger vehicles in Europe being all-electric and two-thirds of our commercial vehicle sales being all-electric or plug-in hybrid by 2030.”

“We also want to thank the UK government for its support for this important investment at Halewood which reconfirms Ford’s continuing commitment to the UK and our position as a leading investor in this country’s auto industry and technological base.”

Ford said Halewood was chosen to supply power units, which replace the engine and transmission in a conventional internal combustion engine, given its record on quality, competitiveness, and skills. The plant currently builds transmissions for a number of passenger and commercial vehicles.

The decision safeguards approximately 500 jobs associated with the plant. This is particularly welcome, after Ford closed its engine factory in Bridgend, South Wales, last year with loss of 1,700 jobs.

The decision was greeted by union leaders. Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “This investment is excellent news for the highly skilled workforce at Halewood as it secures the future of the plant. It is absolutely imperative that the government does not see this investment as a one-off but supports similar schemes to ensure the entire UK automotive industry experiences a smooth transition in the move to build [EVs].”

Des Quinn, Unite national officer, added: “Unite is absolutely dedicated to protect the jobs, pay, and conditions of all our members and is working to ensure that similar projects are adopted throughout the UK’s world class automotive sector.”

The UK Government has pledged to phase out the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030. Under pressure to shift to electrification, automakers are repurposing their facilities to produce batteries and other EV components.

Ford has committed to having all its passenger vehicles as all-electric and two-thirds of its commercial vehicles all-electric or plug-in hybrid by the end of the decade. It is investing £16bn in developing EV technology over the next four years, including an EV manufacturing plant in Cologne.

Justin Benson, an automotive sector specialist at Vendigital, commented: “We’re likely to see more automotive manufacturers following in Ford’s footsteps in the near future. However, while these kinds of announcements bode well for the UK’s net-zero transition, it’s important to bear in mind that a significant investment in Gigafactories will also be vital. This will be the next big challenge for the government and will be key to level the playing field with other major EV manufacturing hubs.”

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