It's no secret that the European auto market has been in the toilet this year, nor is it a secret that big carmakers like Ford have seen sales tank. The American automaker has announced its proposed plan to help shore up finances on the Continent, and it includes stemming over capacity by shuttering one plant and moving production to other, underutilized ones.
The plant in question is the Blue Oval's facility in Genk, Belgium, in the northeast part of the country. Ford has announced that the Genk Plant will be closed by the end of 2014, and the production of the Mondeo, S-Max, and Galaxy will all be shifted to elsewhere in the European Union. Ford's only Belgian plant currently employs 4337 workers over 345 acres in both body and assembly plants measuring 6,792,027 sq ft; the facility opened in 1964.
With the closing of the Genk plant, Ford is looking to bring its facilities in Valencia, Spain and Saarlouis, Germany up to capacity. The automaker says it is still doing feasibility studies, but Genk's current output of the Mondeo sedan, hatch, and wagon; and S-Max and Galaxy MPVs would move from Belgium to Spain; that move would, in turn, shift production of the C-Max and Grand C-Max people movers to Germany.
Ford said in a release that the Genk shuttering would "help to address manufacturing overcapacity stemming from a more than 20 percent drop in total industry vehicle demand in Western Europe since 2007" – a 20-year low. "We understand the impact this potential action would have on our work force in Genk, their families, our suppliers and the local communities," Ford of Europe CEO Stephen Odell said in a prepared statement today. "[Ford fully recognizes and fully accepts] our social responsibilities in this difficult situation…[but] the proposed restructuring of our European manufacturing operations is a fundamental part of our plan to strengthen Ford’s business in Europe and to return to profitable growth."
That said, Ford quickly faced a slew of comments on its Facebook page and other social media channels – both for Ford Belgium and its global pages – filled with outrage and sadness on the automaker's departure from Genk.
The Blue Oval is far from alone in its predicament – Renault is considering shutting plants as well, General Motors' Opel brand has been hemorrhaging cash and has just teamed up with PSA Peugeot Citroën to save money on development, and even mighty Volkswagen is expecting to report a loss in the coming months.