White van men across the country will be bereft. The mighty Ford Transit van, so loved by tradesmen and small-business owners, is no longer a minor British institution.
This week, the last of seven million Transit vans rolled off the company’s Southampton production line, bringing 40 years of automotive history to an end. Of more concern for the local area is that with its departure – it was finished in white, obvs – the plant will close with the loss of 356 jobs.
Ford has been making its Transit range – including everything from vans, minibuses and flat-bed trucks to specialist vehicles such as ambulances and police vans – in Britain since 1972, but the plant’s days were numbered with the euro crisis and a sales falling off a cliff.
So, from now on, white van man won’t just be chomping on a Turkish kebab at the end of his rounds (while drinking the obligatory can of Red Bull and leafing through The Sun), he’ll also be sitting in a Turkish-made vehicle. Production of Transit is off to Kocaeli in sunny Turkey, where the US giant says costs are “significantly lower”.
That’s little consolation to the Ford workers heading to the dole queue, though, and the closure isn’t doing wonders for Ford’s corporate image here in Britain. You can’t help but wonder if the advertising executives behind the slick Transit adverts, with taglines including “Backbone of Britain”, are looking awkwardly at their shoes right now. The genius behind the “Keep Britain Moving” campaign is probably particularly embarrassed. Now, that’s what you call car-crash marketing.