Ford gives Dagenham a Fiesta boost

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Ford is switching production of 200,000 Fiesta cars to the UK and Germany to make way for a $200m investment to build a new model in Spain, writes Russell Hotten.

Yesterday's announcement is a boost for Ford's Dagenham plant in Essex, where Fiesta production has been cut to cope with last year's sharp downturn in European sales.

Albert Caspers, chairman of Ford of Europe, said that between 50,000 and 75,000 cars could be switched to Dagenham from the plant at Valencia.

"Higher volumes will flow from Dagenham, where we have unused capacity," he said. "Many more Fiestas will go for export from Dagenham."

About 6,500 people work at Dagenham, which produced 200,000 Fiestas last year. The Valencia output will be transferred late next year when production of the new car begins.

However, Mr Caspers said more jobs were unlikely and there would be no need to increase the shift patterns.

Ford is moving Fiesta production out of Valencia so it can develop a new city car, codenamed B146. It had been hoped that Dagenham might be chosen to build the model, but Mr Caspers said that increased Fiesta production would be compensation. He said the target market for the B146 is southern Europe and it therefore made sense to produce in Spain. He predicted long- term growth in all Ford's small models as buyers traded down to more economical vehicles.

Ford's British plants are still suffering after last year's unexpected fall in sales in the final months of 1994. Ian McAllister, managing director of Ford UK, said the Halewood plant on Merseyside was still working some short time.

The company is forecasting total British sales this year of £1.95m, up from last year's £1.92m.