Dhe US car manufacturer Ford will not produce its first fully self-developed electric car in Saarlouis, Saarland. Instead, the group management has opted for production in Valencia, Spain. After months of wrangling, in which the board of directors, to the great displeasure of employees and politicians, called on the plants to engage in a kind of internal competition and to compete for subsidies, the Saarlanders left the field as losers.
Dark times await the almost 6,000 employees in the plant and the surrounding suppliers. It is unclear whether the plant can continue to operate at all when production of the Focus ends in 2025 as agreed. The Saarland Prime Minister Anke Rehlinger (SPD), who flew to the Ford headquarters in Dearborn with her economics minister at the beginning of June, called the decision on Wednesday shabby and a farce.
With the bidding competition that started in January, Ford played the workforce off against each other “to squeeze the lemon a little more”. Trade unionists and the works council point out that the workforce has supported the cuts of the past – since 2018 Ford has already cut 2500 jobs – in order to secure the site.
Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck (Greens) made the car manufacturer responsible. “I expect Ford, together with the works council, to put concrete plans for the future of the Saarlouis plant and its employees on the table in the near future,” he said. For the many employees and the region, it is now important that there is clarity as quickly as possible about concrete and reliable prospects for the Saarlouis location. “Ford has a special responsibility here as the owner of the plant, as an employer and as a major automobile manufacturer in Germany, Europe’s largest automobile market.”
The plant with its 4,600 employees and the surrounding supplier park with a further 1,300 employees are threatened with at least significant cuts, perhaps closure. The Focus will be produced there until 2025, after which the employment guarantee will expire. In the auto industry, a plant without its own model is considered threatened with closure in the long term.
Ford Europe boss Stuart Rowley only said on Wednesday that the group would “evaluate future concepts” for the plant – in or outside of Ford. He wanted to form a working group that would work closely with the administration. At the same time, he announced “significant restructuring” for both Saarlouis and Valencia. Although the Spaniards are awarded the contract, the number of employees – currently 6,000 – should also drop in the plant there. Fewer employees are needed to build electric cars.
High commitment from the state government
The state government was committed to the work until the very end. Together with the federal government, she has put together a subsidy package that, according to Rehlinger, amounts to almost one billion euros. As early as 1998, when it came to the order for the Focus production, the state government had paid 100 million euros in aid. Ford does not comment on what decisive factor the state investment aid had in the award of the contract. Europe boss Rowley said only that both regions had presented a “robust package”.
For comparable settlements in Spain, such as the new battery factory recently announced by VW, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez also lured with help from the EU development fund. According to the Federal Court of Auditors, Germany is the largest net contributor to the fund with 65 billion euros.