Wales

Jaguar Land Rover and Ford moves shake Welsh car firms

Ford Bridgend Image copyright PA
Image caption The Ford plant in Bridgend makes engines for both Jaguars, as well as its own models

Welsh companies that supply the car industry are waiting to hear further details of shake-ups at two of the UK's biggest car companies.

Ford, which has a plant in Bridgend, is expected to cut thousands of jobs as part of a review across Europe, and Jaguar Land Rover is cutting up to 5,000 jobs globally, mostly in the UK.

I understand the car components industry in Wales is very nervous.

The automotive sector is being buffeted by various difficulties.

One components maker in Wales described it to me as "the perfect storm" for an industry that employs 18,000 in Wales.

According to the Welsh Automotive Forum, the industry and its supply chain are worth £3.2bn to the economy in Wales and comprises 40 international component manufacturers, including the engine plants of Ford, Toyota at Deeside in Flintshire, and more than a 100 more companies in the service and supply chain, many of which are small and medium enterprises.

Concern

Gestamp in Llanelli, GSM in Brecon, and Continental Teves in Ebbw Vale have all supplied JLR.

There will be most concern about the Ford plant in Bridgend as it makes engines for Jaguar, as well as its own models.

And Wales has already seen job losses announced at Schaeffler in Llanelli, which was also due to changes in the automotive sector.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Jaguar Land Rover's UK sites are in England, but it has used Welsh suppliers

Car companies generally are coping with uncertainty over Brexit and poorer consumer confidence resulting in fewer sales in UK. The weaker pound has led to higher import costs, and there has been a fall in sales in China.

Consumers are moving towards alternative fuels and legislation against diesel.

The specific impact of the announcements from Ford and JLR is still unclear.

No assurances

Ford warned of job losses across the EU and said there can be no assurances given on the future of specific plants.

This will become clearer in the summer. It is conducting the review on the basis it expects a Brexit agreement - and said potential job losses will be "significantly more dramatic" in the event of a "no deal" Brexit.

Economy and Transport Minister Ken Skates said Ford in Bridgend had last month begun production of a new family of low-emission petrol engines following a £100m investment, and the Welsh Government would continue to work closely with the company.

"Our support for the plant on its road to modernisation becomes even more critical in this context," he said.

This echoes the fact these moves from both Ford and Jaguar Land Rover are about coping not just with reduced demand now - but also big changes on the horizon.

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