Ford to keep Saarlouis plant open to 2032

Ford to keep Saarlouis plant open to 2032

Automotive News Europe — 2023-03-30

Automotive Industry

Ford's European leadership has agreed to keep open the automaker's factory in Saarlouis, Germany, beyond its previous cut-off date of 2025, with a much-reduced workforce.

The plant will stay open at least until the end of 2032, with 1,000 jobs to be retained until then, employees representative Markus Thal told staff.

Currently, the workforce in Saarlouis, which builds the Focus compact car, is about 4,500.

"It is only thanks to our joint solidarity that this has been achieved," Thal said in a message to all employees on Wednesday.

The agreement is an "intermediate step" in shaping a concept for the future of the plant, Thal added.

A Ford spokesman said it remains unchanged that no more Ford vehicles will be built in Saarlouis after 2025. Priority will be given to attracting investors to take over the factory, the spokesman said.

Ford had planned to shut the factory entirely in summer 2025, when production of the Focus ends.

In return for job security, employees have agreed to reduce the capacity of the plant. Instead of a daily construction rate of 860 units, this will be reduced to 600 units a day from 1 April 2023.

However, the planned annual capacity of 117,000 Focus units will remain in place. The cars will continue to be built in two shifts, but in the future there will be only 300 vehicles per shift.

After 2025, employees whose jobs involve tasks outside Focus production will be retained.

China's BYD, Magna International, which owns Austrian contract manufacturer Magna Steyr, and Dutch contract manufacturer VDL Nedcar are potentially interested in Saarloius, according to reports.

Ford is not replacing the Focus. The company plans for all its passenger vehicles in Europe to be fully electric by 2030 and all its vehicles by 2035.

Saarlouis has been facing closure since last June when Ford picked its factory in Valencia, Spain, to build its next-generation electric vehicles for Europe instead of Saarlouis.