Ford shuts down last UK assembly plant

The rear end of a Ford Transit van on a street in London on October 25, 2012.

Today sees the end of an era for Ford. After a hundred years of production in the U.K., the U.S. auto giant is closing its last vehicle assembly operation in Britain. The company is switching the manufacture of its Transit van to Turkey.  

Ford stopped making cars in the U.K. more than decade ago and the closure of the van factory has been in the cards for a year or two. But the end of Transit van making in Britain today still comes as a shock. 

The Transit is a British icon -- much favored by plumbers, electricians and even bank robbers; it’s a bit of blow to national pride that Brits won’t be making them anymore.

“It’s a sad day both to see Ford leave the U.K. and to see Transit production going off to Turkey, given its iconic importance to the industry,” says Professor David Bailey of Coventry University Business School. “But from a cost point of view, you can see why Ford has done this."

Ford’s Turkish facilities can produce ten times the number of vans as the British plant at a significantly lower cost.

Ford will still employ more than 10,000 people in Britain making engines. But the final departure of vehicle assembly operations delivers a bit of a dent to the U.K.’s manufacturing reputation.

About the author

Stephen Beard is the European bureau chief and provides daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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