It Begins: Ford Restructuring Ends Production at Blanquefort Plant in France
As part of Ford’s massive restructuring plan, which is said to focus primarily on its European assets, the automaker will end assembly at its Blanquefort transmission plant in France next year. Its 850 employees will now have to find gainful employment elsewhere by August.
However, there was a brief glimmer of hope after transmission supplier Punch Powerglide (encouraged by the French government) launched a bid to purchase the facility and rescue it from being shuttered.
“Despite thorough and rigorous talks over the past nine months, and the best efforts of both sides, the plan put forward by the potential buyer presents significant risks,” Ford said in a statement. “We do not believe that the prospective buyer’s plans offer the level of security or protection, or limit the risk of possible future job losses, that we would like for the employees.”
According to Reuters, France’s Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire previously described Punch Powerglide as a “credible, solid buyer,” and has been vocally opposed to Ford’s final decision to close the facility. Like Italy, France has a disproportionately high unemployment rate compared to the rest of Europe. Though not nearly as bad as Greece or Spain, the French government doesn’t want to see itself joining their ranks.
The nation is also enduring a period of civil unrest as “ yellow vest protests” have quickly grown to a point where they’re beginning to spill beyond its borders. While initially opposed to France’s proposed fuel tax hike and corporate exemptions, the movement now seems to have co-opted the general outrage of Europe’s working class. Protests have gotten ugly, too, frequently involving extremely violent urban skirmishes with the police as they rally against proposed economic reforms, mass-immigration mandates, unemployment, and French President Emmanuel Macron.
“I am revolted, I am sickened by this decision whose only justification is for Ford to get its shares to rise on the stock market,” Le Maire told the French Senate. “I want to attack the cowardice of Ford. For the last three days I have been looking to talk to them, and they didn’t even have the courage to talk to the minister of finance and economy over the phone,” he added.
[Image: Ford Motor Co.]
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The factory that is closing appears to be the Ford Aquitaine Industries plant that makes 6F35 automatic transmissions, not the Getrag/Ford JV in the same city that makes manual transmissions. Ford says the closure is due to falling sales of automatics. The dual clutch Power Shift is made in Slovakia. The largest user of the 6F35 appears to be the Ford Mondeo. Ford announced several months ago that they were no longer going to develop the Mondeo/Fusion. They only sold 56,000 Mondeos in Europe last year, and sales are even lower this year. My takeaway is this plant closure is the Mondeo's death warrant. There will be no plant closure for the abandonment of the Mondeo as other models are also built in that plant, and they all use the Power Shift.
Ford is concerned about the security of workers should the plant be sold, so instead they are closing the plant down entirely and laying everyone off. How the *()&^)&_)(* does that add up?