Ford sticks to plan to end Focus production in Germany despite EV slump

Ford sticks to plan to end Focus production in Germany despite EV slump

Automotive News Europe — 2024-06-11

Automotive Industry

The production of the compact car, which has an internal-combustion drivetrain, is set to end in 2025, and operations at the Saarlouis factory are winding down.

Ford will not extend production of the Focus compact at its Saarlouis, Germany, plant beyond its planned end date of 2025 even if the European Union decides to soften its zero-emission plan, the company said.

Ford is winding down operations at Saarlouis, and after Focus production ends in November 2025, just 1,000 of the plant’s 4,500 workers will stay on to “provide services for other Ford locations,” Ford executives said. The plant will stay open at least until the end of 2032.

An increase in the number of conservative members in the newly elected European Parliament could potentially trigger a relaxation of the EU’s Fit for 55 targets to allow combustion-engine powered light vehicles to be sold after 2035. At the same time, EV sales are slowing, raising questions about how that target date can be met.

Any rules changes will not persuade Ford to carry on building cars at Saarlouis, Kieran Cahill, vice head of manufacturing for Ford in Europe, said last week at an event at Ford’s facility in Cologne. “We’ve made our plans and extending it doesn’t feature,” Cahill said about the Focus.

Ford has moved back its own plan to only sell full-electric passenger cars in Europe to 2035 from 2030. Other automakers are also revisiting their targets as EV sales slow.

It’s not 2030 for passenger vehicles anymore, because we have seen that the transformation for EVs takes longer than we anticipated,” Anna Strigel, director sales and brand at Ford’s Model E EV unit, said at the Cologne event to launch the new Explorer compact electric SUV.

Focus production at Saarlouis was stopped in March 2024 because of industrial action by suppliers seeking the same severance deal offered to Ford's employees.

Production shifts to other sites

Ford had been trying to sell the Saarlouis factory but talks with a potential Chinese investor broke down last October (2023).

Ford has prioritized passenger vehicle production at its factories in Cologne and Valencia, Spain.

The company is currently considering building a new global “multi-energy” SUV at Valencia. The plant, which employs 4,800 people, builds the Kuga SUV after other models, including the Mondeo midsize car and S-Max and Galaxy minivans, were discontinued.

Ford also builds the Puma small SUV at a plant in Craiova, Romania, that is now owned by a joint venture between Ford and Turkey’s Otosan.