Ford best-sellers to be cut back

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The Independent Online
FORD is to halve production of the best-selling Escort and Orion range at its Halewood plant on Merseyside because of flagging sales, underlining the parlous state of the domestic market.

Output will be reduced to one shift a day for four weeks when Halewood re-opens on 17 August after its annual three-week shutdown. Two-shift working will resume after that, but for a further fortnight Halewood will produce on only four days a week instead of five.

Ford, which will lose about 500 cars a day by closing the night-shift, blamed the cuts on the continuing depression in the home market.

'The anticipated recovery in car sales in the second half of the year now looks unlikely to lift the market much above the 1991 level of 1.59 million cars,' said a spokesman.

While the Escort remained Britain's best-selling car, the lack of growth in the domestic market had made production cuts inevitable.

Ford was continuing to export Escorts and Orions, but Continental demand had not picked up sufficiently to offset the slump in British sales.

There was more encouraging news from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, which reported a rise in car and commercial vehicle production in June compared with last year.

Car production last month was 129,219 - up 3.3 per cent on June, 1991 - while commercial vehicle production jumped 49.3 per cent on last year.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, output of cars remained flat in June compared with the previous month, while commercial vehicle production picked up slightly.

Overall, car output in the first half of the year was down by just 1.1 per cent on the same period in 1991, but export production was down by 20 per cent.

Despite Ford's decision to reduce output from Halewood, Sir Hal Miller, the SMMT's chief executive, said: 'If hopes for August sales are realised it should be possible to maintain production in the second half.'