Fleet News

Ford puts Blair under grant aid pressure

FORD bosses have met with the Prime Minister to discuss the level of Government grant needed to guarantee the future of the manufacturer's Bridgend plant.

Jim Donaldson, president of Ford Europe, and Ian McAllister, chairman and managing director of Ford of Britain, went to Downing Street to discuss a possible increase in the £30million in grant aid the Government is offering the South Wales plant. Ford executives are tryng to encourage the Government to up the grant to prevent a key contract from going overseas, potentially resulting in the loss of 1,400 jobs at Bridgend.

Bridgend is competing with Ford plants in Cologne and Valencia for the contract to produce the new petrol engine, codenamed I4/I5 which replaces the Zetec range, and requires initial investment of £250million.

Ford won't say how the meeting went or whether the loss of the contract for the new engine would mean the closure of the Bridgend plant. A spokesman said: 'Ford's three main European petrol engine plants are competing to produce the new engine. In the autumn, it will be announced who has won that contract. Until then everything is speculation.

Meanwhile, at the Dagenham plant in Essex, Ford has announced plans to invest £300million to increase capacity and pave the way for a new generation of cars. The investment is part of £468million being pumped into the area to train workers and create 2,000 new jobs. The Dagenham revamp is due to be completed in 2002 when the new Fiesta will go into production, along with a new small car and another new vehicle codenamed B257.

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