Ford Cutting Nearly 4,000 Jobs in Europe, U.S. Cuts Likely to Follow

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Ford Motor Co. reportedly has plans to cut 3,800 administrative and product development positions in Europe over the next three years – representing a little more than 10 percent of its regional workforce. Germany and the United Kingdom are presumed to be the zones taking the biggest hits, with the automaker suggesting that it needs to streamline the workforce as part of its transition toward all-electric vehicles.

While everyone tends to act surprised whenever something like this happens, just about every manufacturer interested in electrification has acknowledged that staffing reductions were all but guaranteed. Since a larger portion of all-electric vehicles are outsourced (primarily the batteries) and they typically have far fewer moving parts, automakers knew they would need fewer hands on most assembly lines. In fact, this was frequently presented to investors as a perk with companies promising big savings in terms of labor costs and improved profitability overall.

But EVs also make for a convenient scapegoat and Ford’s workforce has been shrinking for quite some time. Blue Oval’s total number of employees was estimated to be somewhere around 190,000 in 2019. However, that represented an almost 5 percent decline from 2018 and the automaker’s staffing trajectory hasn’t changed. Ford employment has continued to shrink every year since then and was assumed to be near 173,000 by the end of 2022.

Despite plenty of other manufacturers having made similar claims about EVs impacting their employment figures, the constant downsizing hasn’t yet become ubiquitous – suggesting that Ford is either so much further along in the electrification process that’ll eliminate jobs or that there’s probably something else encouraging these layoffs.

According to Automotive News, roughly 2,300 jobs will be eliminated at the business' Merkenich-Cologne and Aachen sites in Germany, with another 1,300 being dropped in the UK, and about 200 scattered across the rest of Europe. Ideally, the automaker said it would like to achieve staffing reductions via voluntary separation programs.

From AN:

Ford will retain about 3,400 engineers in Europe who will build on core technology provided by their U.S. counterparts and adapt it to European customers, said Martin Sander, head of the automaker’s electric-vehicle business in Europe.
"There is significantly less work to be done on drivetrains moving out of combustion engines. We are moving into a world with fewer global platforms where less engineering work is necessary. This is why we have to make the adjustments," Sander said on Tuesday.
Nothing has changed in the automaker's electrification strategy, Sander said, with the goal of offering an all-electric fleet of passenger cars and light commercial vans in Europe by 2035 still in place.
Ford aims to make its passenger car lineup in Europe all-electric by 2030 and it expects two-thirds of commercial van sales to be all-electric or plug-in hybrids by the same date.
Ford is due to launch its first all-electric vehicle in Europe built on Volkswagen Group's MEB platform in Cologne later this year and is considering bringing a Ford platform to Europe, possibly to its plant in Valencia, Spain, Sander said.

Despite Ford talking a big game about environmentalism, it has opted to kill off one of its most-economical models. Already removed from our market, so the Blue Oval could lean into more-profitable SUVs, the Ford Fiesta has been a popular super-mini that has historically been sold to hundreds of thousands of Europeans annually. Unfortunately, those figures have come down recently and the model doesn’t typically yield stunning profit margins for the company.

Factory stalls witnessed during the pandemic were probably the final nail in the Fiesta’s coffin. Volumes went from 313,600 (in 2015) to just 86,300 units (in 2021). The Cologne factory that produces the model will be repurposed to manufacture EVs using Volkswagen Group's MEB platform later this year.

Ford also plans on dumping the Focus (another economical model previously booted from our market) in 2025 after ending production of the compact at its plant in Saarlouis, Germany. The automaker is reported to be in talks with potential buyers of the plant, including China’s BYD.

"We are preparing our organization to compete and win in a region facing unprecedented economic and geopolitical headwinds," Sander explained.

Ford is also assumed to be reducing jobs in the United States, with Jim Farley targeting $3 billion in annualized savings while investing more than $50 billion in EVs through 2026.

[Image: jon lyall/Shutterstock]

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Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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