Ford shutters Belgian plant, cuts 4,500 jobs

Automaker’s struggling in Europe, and expects to lost more than $1 billion there this year.

BRUSSELS, Belgium—Ford Motor Co. will close a car plant in eastern Belgium—one of its main European factories—by the end of 2014, a move that will cut 4,500 jobs and another 5,000 among subcontractors.

Exactly half a century after construction on the Genk plant started, Ford told a management council there that production was winding down as slumping European sales have forced a restructuring of its plants.

Ford has been under pressure in Europe due to the region’s dwindling demand for its models and the overall slide of car sales on the continent due to the debt crisis.

The company expects to lose more than $1 billion this year in Europe, where it gets a quarter of its sales. Analysts say Ford has more factory capacity than it needs.

The plant in Genk makes the midsize Mondeo, the S-MAX minivan and the Galaxy car. Ford said it plans to move the production of all three lines to Valencia, Spain.

“The proposed restructuring of our European manufacturing operations is a fundamental part of our plan to strengthen Ford’s business in Europe,” CEO Ford of Europe Stephen Odell said in a statement.

Figures from Acea, the European carmakers’ association, show European market sales have dropped 10.8% on a year-by-year basis in September. Ford’s drop in sales was 14.9%.

The announcement came barely a month after Ford had given reassurances about production at the Genk plant, Lamers said.

Ford Genk represents more than 30% of the car production in Belgium.

©The Canadian Press