South East Wales

Ford chooses Bridgend for £181m new engine project

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Media captionEdwina Hart said the deal would safeguard jobs

Ford's Bridgend plant will build the company's new generation of petrol engines in a deal worth £181m.

The investment is backed by nearly £15m from the Welsh government with production due to start in late 2018.

Economy Minister Edwina Hart said the deal would "safeguard more than 750 skilled Welsh jobs for many years".

"In a climate of stiff global competitiveness, we have been actively seeking to win a share of this investment for Wales," she said.

"Ford's decision to manufacture its new innovative engine here in Wales is a tribute to the reputation of the local management team and the quality and loyalty of the Welsh workforce," she added.

The Ford Bridgend plant opened in 1980 and has fought fierce competition to win successive investments in the past worth more than £2.8bn.

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Media captionEconomy Minister Edwina Hart pays tribute to an 'adaptable' workforce

The company has said its presence supports around 10,000 jobs in south Wales, with 1,860 employed at the plant itself.

Ford said technicians based in Essex and Germany had worked together on the design and development of a new fuel-efficient range of engines.

A letter from Ford to workers seen by the BBC in June said that to win the investment there would need to be a change to working conditions at Bridgend to make the plant more competitive.

Welsh Conservative shadow economy minister William Graham said Friday's announcement was a sign of "confidence in the UK government's efforts to rebuild the economy".

Analysis by Brian Meechan, BBC Wales business correspondent

This is good news for workers at Bridgend as the new production will begin in 2018, just as the manufacturing of Jaguar Land Rover engines at the site will be coming to an end.

It secured hundreds of jobs that may otherwise have been in jeopardy. Two hundred fixed contract workers were let go at Ford Bridgend this year when it stopped manufacturing engines for Volvo.

There are concerns, though, that the new investment will mean that Bridgend can only manufacture a third of the number of engines it does at the moment.

Some question why the Welsh government should be contributing £15m to the investment of a multinational company in a plant it owns.

Bridgend was in competition with three other European Ford plants for this work, all with governments offering financial support as standard.

The automotive industry is so competitive internationally that without government backing, companies are likely to go elsewhere.

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