Toyota pledges quick growth as Ford axes staff

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The Independent Online
THE CHANGING face of the British motor industry will be graphically illustrated today when Toyota of Japan opens its UK car plant with a pledge to achieve a net trade surplus inside two years while Ford confirms swingeing job losses at its main car factories.

Production at Toyota's pounds 700m Burnaston plant near Derby is scheduled to reach 100,000 by late 1994 - several months earlier than planned - with 70 per cent of output exported.

That will enable Japan's largest car company to make a contribution towards the UK's balance of payments estimated at nearly pounds 100m.

The upbeat message from Toyota follows the disclosure yesterday by Nissan that its Sunderland plant will become one of Britain's top ten exporters next year, enabling the rival Japanese carmaker to achieve a net trade surplus 12 months earlier.

But unions at Ford are bracing themselves for an announcement of up to 3,000 more job losses on top of 1,500 last month when they meet management today.

An internal briefing to senior managers makes it clear that Ford faces a worsening financial position.

'The rapid deterioration in the business environment is so dramatic that major new savings and improvement initiatives will have to be identified throughout the business. Key competitors have better cost structures showing that costs can and must be reduced further,' the management document warns.

Staff recruitment has been frozen across Europe while Ford of Britain has cancelled its graduate entry programme for the first time since 1975.

Ford's decision to halt graduate recruitment comes despite warnings of the loss of 'goodwill' that followed its disappearance from the 'milkround' in 1975.

Output from the Nissan plant in Sunderland is scheduled to reach 270,000 next year but Ian Gibson, the managing director, said that it could increase capacity to 300,000 if there were sufficient demand. Mr Gibson added that 84 per cent of the Primera and Micra cars built at Sunderland next year would be exported.

The factory, which buys 70 per cent of its components from UK suppliers, is set to achieve a trade surplus of pounds 730m this year and pounds 1.1bn in 1993. However, with the introduction of the Micra model, Nissan's imports from Japan will halve to 30,000 next year, enabling the Japanese manufacturer to achieve an overall trade surplus.

Toyota imports about 45,000 cars into Britain each year. But by late 1994 it will be exporting from Burnaston at a rate of 70,000 a year. Production at the plant will be 5,000 higher than planned in the first year and about 20,000 higher in the second.