Ford has announced that it will inject $153M into its Halewood plant in Liverpool. The move is expected to boost the production of electric vehicle components as well as secure about 500 jobs on Merseyside. After a dismal year, this investment will strengthen the automobile industry in the UK. This is also in line with Ford’s plan to electrify its range of models.
The investment by the United State automaker giant is coming on the heels of a $282M investment earlier made by the automaker last year. This brings Ford’s total spending in the Halewood plant to $435M. With the new investment, 70% of the 600,000 EV units of all Ford EVs sold in Europe by 2026 will be produced in the Halewood plant.
Ford’s initial spending was backed by about $37M from the UK government’s Automotive Transformation Fund. The government support is timely considering growing fears that well-paid jobs in the automotive industry may move to other countries if major automakers decide to move their investment in EV plants away from the UK.
While prototype building and testing have already begun, the plant will start producing power units in 2024. This move further solidifies Ford’s plan to sell only EVs in the UK and Europe by 2030 and electric vans by 2035.
Commenting on the investment, the vice president of Ford’s European Industrial Operations Kieran Cahill said, “The vision we have for Europe is to create a booming business by extending control in passenger vehicles and via the electrification of our vehicle range. Halewood is instrumental to our component production in Europe considering that it is our first in-house investment in EV.”
Ford will also inject $28M into the E:PRiME (Electrified Powertrain in Manufacturing Engineering) development center in Dunton, Essex.
Enhancing Halewood manufacturing plant capacity through investment
In 2021, Ford’s investment in the Halewood plant made it possible for the plant to produce 250,000 electric drive units. This unit has an electric gearbox that links the wheels and battery pack. A further investment of $183M into the plant that is currently responsible for producing components for ICE will upgrade the capacity to 420,000 annually beginning from 2024.
Ford shut its Bridgend factory in 2019. The factory was responsible for the production of diesel and petrol engines. That led to the loss of about 1,700 jobs. Likewise, Honda had plans to shut down its Swindon plant in 2021.
About $29M of Ford’s latest investment will go to its Dunton center in Basildon. The fund will help with the preparation of prototypes of the modules as well as the training of staff in Halewood towards the production of new electric drive units.
The units manufactured in Halewood will be incorporated into the electric Puma cars and Ford’s range of electric Tourneo and Transit vans. According to the International trade secretary Kemi Badenoch, enhancing EV production is a critical strategy that the UK government is using to fight climate change.
The UK auto industry has been struggling to secure investment
Ford’s investment was a huge relief for the UK auto industry which is on a marathon to attract investment that will help to construct the necessary infrastructure to sustain the EV industry. The structures are urgently needed before 2030 when the ban on new diesel and petrol models will take effect in the UK.
In 2021, the UK auto industry bagged a $1.2 billion investment from Nissan and Envision AESC (Nissan’s battery partner). The aim of the investment was to transform a site in Sunderland into a global EV hub. Stellantis also committed $122M to manufacture electric vans at Ellesmere Port. That announcement put to an end a long uncertainty over the fate of another major car plant in Liverpool.
This year has not been rosy for the UK auto industry when it comes to investment. Firstly, BMW announced that it would match the brakes on the production of the electric Mini in Oxford. Also, UK start-ups Britishvolt and Arrival are facing enormous funding and production challenges.
This week, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) lowered its 2025 production forecast for the sector. The organization warned that the industry needs more government support to cope with rising energy costs. They are also advocating for additional training for apprentices and staff.
Emphasizing the urgency of government intervention, SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said “[The industry] needs rapid and conclusive action that tackles the instant problems and bequeath us a fighting chance of coming out on top of the global competition.”