UGT asks the multinational to award the Valencian plant a hybrid engine to guarantee the future of the factory.
“Much will have to be done to renew all the passenger cars that are manufactured today.” “Difficulties will soon begin to loom.” These were the serious warnings that UGT issued last Thursday about the future of Ford Almussafes. And when asked about it by Invertia, the majority union of the plant dates these complications: 2023.
“The life cycle of almost all the models that we manufacture now will be ending in 2023. Awards such as the one we are claiming, the manufacture of hybrid engines, are urgent,” Carlos Faubel, president of the works council, told this newspaper.
UGT launched its warning message when it observed that only the German plant in Cologne has received specific orders within the framework of Ford’s electrification process for its plants on the Old Continent, where it aims to offer a 100% electricity supply in 2030.
The union launched a specific request a year and a half ago: the award to the Valencian plant of the aforementioned production of hybrid engines (electric plus gasoline) such as the one carried by the plug-in Ford Kuga, the factory’s star model.
In addition to its own workload, its development in Almussafes would allow the plant to specialize in vehicles with future perspectives such as plug-ins. The plant was awarded the GDI gasoline engine, an order that was interpreted as a step prior to the hybrid engine. But this aspiration does not finish materializing.
Minute and result
The current situation of the plant is that the bulk of the vehicles it manufactures have an industrial ‘expiration’ close to the horizon. The one with the best health is the Kuga, whose new model went on sale in 2020. Almussafes manufactures all versions, including the plug-in hybrid, for the European market.
The life cycle of this SUV could reach at least until 2024, date on which, depending on the usual uses of the automotive industry, its restyling, its updated version, should be launched. Almussafes would be the undisputed favorite to produce it.
The Valencian factory currently assembles around 800 Ford Kuga a day, on whose assembly line around 2,000 workers work directly, according to UGT estimates.
The problem is that the rest of the models are in worse ‘health’. The case of the Mondeo, S-Max and Galaxy is very similar. It is a sedan and two minivans, two types of vehicles that are clearly being displaced in the market by SUVs – the ‘SUVs’ and light off-road vehicles.
Ford already seems to have stretched the life cycle of these three models as much as possible, at least as they are today. The last bet was to launch its non-plug-in hybrid versions with the goal of selling them until 2024.
But that official estimate came before the pandemic, a crisis that has sunk the sale of all models and threatens to advance the disappearance of the least profitable. Consequently, the production of these three cars, which add 300 units a day and 1,000 direct jobs in Almussafes, could not go beyond 2023.
For their part, Transit and Turneo Connect vans add 500 units a day and 1,400 direct jobs whose threat is even closer. Of the around 110,000 annual units that are now manufactured, the 40,000 that are sold in Europe will be discontinued in 2022, as announced by Ford.
The remaining 70,000, which are sent to the American market, run the same danger as the minivans and the saloon, with the aggravating circumstance that there is an agreement between Volkswagen and Ford for the German brand to manufacture the light vans of the two brands. The forecast is to extend its production in Almussafes until 2024.
The Connect’s engine is the gasoline GDI, whose order Almussafes has just received for two and a half years – until it stops producing the van. And in a similar situation is the Ecoboost engine, which Ford will manufacture in North America in 2024.
As a result, until the long-awaited hybrid engine arrives, the roughly 1,000 engine employees are only guaranteed jobs until 2023.
Changes in the industry
The future is complex in a world, that of the automobile, which has suffered greatly from Covid-19. Changes in the industry, with the irruption of new technologies and mobility options that make consumers doubt, already pushed brands to refine their offer and focus only on the most profitable products. But now more due to the crisis.
In this scenario of adjustments, no plant wants to be the one that loses weight, at least not so much that its closure becomes a possibility. The fewer models a plant manufactures, the higher its fixed costs per unit produced, and Almussafes has always boasted of sporting the largest range of the brand in Europe.
But now his employees are watching with concern as the life cycle of their current models is exhausted without alternatives, and they fear that the paradigm will change. For this reason, it squeezes the European management in search of new awards.