Automotive News Europe — 2023-10-05
Ford's factory in Saarlouis, Germany, is once more on course for closure after talks with a potential investor -- said to be a Chinese company -- failed.
Ford said on Thursday that the investor decided not to continue with talks to take over the plant "after a detailed feasibility study and intensive negotiations."
Ford did not disclose the name of the potential investor.
Sources familiar with the talks had said Chinese automakers were among companies interested in taking over the plant, which builds the Focus compact car and is due to end production in 2025.
Ford had planned to sign binding preliminary agreement with the investor by 30 September.
Fifteen possible investors had expressed interest, the plant's works council said earlier this year. Chinese automakers BYD and Chery Automotive were said to be among companies interested in taking over the factory.
Ford and the German state of Saarland held talks with potential investors including BYD, several smaller manufacturers, as well as a German maker of solar panel modules, sources told Bloomberg.
Ford's Europe passengers cars boss Martin Sander told Saarlouis workers on Thursday that the company will pursue an alternative plan intended to save 1,000 of the 4,400 jobs at the factory.
The alternative plan could create a technology center at the site, Ford said, without providing further details.
A union representative expressed disappointment and anger at the news, saying talks with the company would continue on Monday on a collective bargaining agreement for workers who stood to lose their jobs.
"This will be expensive for Ford," union representative Joerg Koehlinger said. "We will send a signal so that other companies will be afraid to flatten sites."
The setback comes as Ford is in the midst of negotiations with the United Auto Workers in the United States who are 21 days into a strike over labor conditions
Ford is shrinking its production network in Europe as it reduces its passenger vehicle lineup to concentrate on selling only all-electric cars in the region by 2030.
The Focus, once a mainstay of its business in Europe, is not being replaced when current production ends.
Saarlouis has been facing closure since June 2022 when Ford picked its factory in Valencia, Spain, over Saarlouis to build its next-generation electric vehicles for Europe.