Ford Bridgend's £24m new engine production secures jobs
A £24m investment at Ford's Bridgend plant will secure jobs with the production of a new greener engine.
Production is due to start next year on a new 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol engine at the factory which employs more than 2,000 people.
Industry experts welcomed the news saying safeguarding workers' jobs makes the wider area more financially secure.
Ford praised the Welsh government for pledging £12m towards the project during Monday's official announcement.
The Bridgend plant may be a small part of a global operation but it's significant nevertheless.
A third of all Ford engines in the world are made either in Bridgend or Dagenham. One union convenor who has been there since the first engines rolled off the production line in 1980 told me Ford keep on coming back and investing in Bridgend.
The company admits things are brutally competitive in Europe but the Bridgend plant is sending its engines all over the world.
The fact that it will be developing the next generation of petrol engines is putting it in a good position to make sure it has a future as well as a past.
"It's fantastic news," said former Bridgend council leader Jeff Jones, who added that anything that helped workers benefitted the wider local economy.
Industry expert Dr Peter Wells said the Bridgend plant was a key player in the UK's growing role in car engine production, in comparison with the number of vehicles manufactured.
"This is good news for Wales and speaks volumes for the way in which the workforce has continued to change and adapt."
Dr Wells, a director at Cardiff Business School's Centre for Automotive Industry Research (CAIR), explained that car companies have been concentrating investment in developing more fuel efficient and greener engines ahead of new regulations coming into force.
"Private sector jobs are worth their weight in gold right now in the Welsh economy", said Professor Kevin Morgan of Cardiff University.
"The growth prospects of the public sector are pretty grim, which is why we should encourage investment in the private sector. It is difficult because historically private sector jobs have been underdeveloped in Wales".Lower emissions
Ford Bridgend is to be the company's long-term European production base for the new 1.5-litre engine.
Private sector in Wales
- While Ford is one of the leading private sector employers in Wales with 2,150 workers, Tata Steel is the largest, with 7,000 staff
- Airbus is also among the largest with 6,500 staff in Broughton, Flintshire
- According to the Western Mail, Flintshire-based supermarket chain Iceland is Wales' biggest revenue-generating business, with sales of £2.61bn in its last financial year to the end of March 2012
- Then follow motor insurance group Admiral, GE Aircraft Engines Services, Welsh Water and power company Swalec
- In 1993 Admiral launched in Cardiff with 57 members of staff and now employs more than 4,800 in Wales
Production is due to start next year and then "ramp up over the following two years to ensure that Bridgend output is maintained at optimum capacity during this period", according to a spokesperson.
It will be built at the factory alongside the larger 1.6-litre EcoBoost engine which was introduced in 2011. It is understood the investment will secure 500 jobs directly.
The workforce is expected to grow by December to 2,300 which will be the most ever employed by Ford in Bridgend.
Economy Minister Edwina Hart said: "The Welsh government has worked closely with Ford to secure this investment and is delighted to confirm a support package of £12m towards this exciting programme.
"This will help safeguard and create high quality production and engineering jobs in Wales."
The new aluminium-block, twin-cam 1.5-litre EcoBoost will providing similar performance to the current 1.6-litre version, while "delivering improved fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions".
Ford Bridgend currently produces 2,668 four-cylinder engines daily with an annual export value of £1.5bn combined with other Ford UK operations.
Mark Ovenden, Ford of Britain managing director, said: "The Welsh government has greatly assisted in maximising the full potential of Ford's own investment in Bridgend and we are pleased to meet today with the Welsh first minister and the business minister to recognise this successful partnership."
Last week a protest took place outside Ford's Essex headquarters over plans to close part of one of its sites.
As well as closing the stamping and tooling plant in Dagenham, Ford plans to end production in Southampton.