Saturday, 3 November 2012

The end of the British Transit van

In October 2012 Ford announced that they are to close their last remaining vehicle manufacturing plant in the UK. The move to close the Transit van factory in Southampton will put an end to more than 100 years of Ford vehicle production in the UK. The closure will result in 500 job losses in Southampton and a further 600 losses at the Ford Dagenham plant, which supplies the Transit van parts.

Ford justified their decision to shift production of Britain's favourite van to their Kocaeli plant in Turkey by claiming that production costs are "significantly lower" in Turkey, than elsewhere in Europe. This will be of scant consolation to the hundreds of Ford workers and their families thrown into uncertainty and poverty by this move, not to mention the hundreds of other supply and service industry workers that will adversely effected by this closure. One hopes that any extra profits Ford make by shifting production to Turkey will be cancelled out as loyal Transit van drivers switch their allegiances to makes and models that are still produced by UK workers.

The unions have described the closure plans as a betrayal of the Southampton workforce and called on the government to fight the closure. here's what Len McCluskey, the General Secretary of Unite said:
"Only a few months ago Ford was promising staff a new Transit model for Southampton in 2014. The planned closures will really hurt the local economies and the supply chain will be badly hit - up to 10,000 jobs could be at risk...The Transit has been the best-selling van in the UK for over a quarter of a century. It has a future in the UK if this Government is prepared to fight for real jobs and persuade Ford to keep manufacturing vehicles in the UK."
This union plea to the Tory led coalition is nothing but another example of the absurd optimism of "the left", the Tory track record is an absolutely clear demonstration that they simply don't give a damn about British manufacturing, preferring instead to maintain their absurd fantasies about Britain becoming a "post-industrial economy" based around the City of London financial sector. Given the openly venomous hatred of the unions amongst the Conservative party leadership and rank and file Tories alike, a union plea to save the Southampton plant would probably only have the effect of inspiring the Tories to implore Ford to speed up the closure.

Since Transit van production was established in the UK back in 1972, more than 2.18 million of the iconic vehicles have rolled off British production lines. When I was a kid in the 1980s my Dad used to drop me off at primary school in his old style Ford Transit on his way to work. When I worked in construction I spent many thousands of hours in Transit vans and I even owned my own £500 Transit van for a while, a tired but reliable old beast with 245,000 miles on the clock, that had averaged more than 70 miles a day, every day, since she had rolled off the production line in Southampton ten years previously. I've probably spent more hours in Transit vans than any other make of vehicle and I feel a real affinity for them.

The Transit is an iconic vehicle, and Ford cashed in on this iconic status with a series of adverts that described the Transit Van as "the backbone of Britain". By 2013 all Transit van production will have been shifted to Turkey. I wonder if they will relaunch their "backbone of Britain" slogan as: British backbones, now manufactured in Turkey.