Ford plans jobs massacre

Overproduction is affecting the car industry severely, as glutted markets take their toll on sales and workers are thrown to the wall.

The Sunday Times on 2 September reported that Ford is planning to wipe out up to 24,000 jobs (12 percent of the global workforce) and ditch production of the Mondeo in a desperate effort to resuscitate its European wing.

Global overproduction has been hitting some of the biggest names in the motor industry, threatening the loss of thousands of jobs. US giant Ford has seen its share of the European market decline from 19.2 percent in 2001 to 11.3 percent last year, with its factories in Spain and Germany operating well below capacity.

Ford has been squeezed out of the European market by the likes of competitors General Motors and Fiat Chrysler. Such is the degree of overcapacity, however, that General Motors itself pulled out of Europe last year, selling its Vauxhall and Opel marques to France’s PSA.

The Sunday Times speculates that Ford may be thinking of “shunting some or all of Ford’s European business into a joint venture with that of a rival such as German giant Volkswagen”. Whichever way you cut it, though, the market glut cannot but result in declining profits and the further concentration of capital into fewer hands, while the first to go to the wall will be the workers.

The Sunday Times suggests various reasons why Ford is struggling at this time: Brexit; the fall in diesel sales following health concerns; the fact that the Mondeo has gone out of fashion; Ford’s tardiness in getting a slice of the lucrative SUV action. The paper at one point even suggests that the problem is simply that “Ford forgot to make cars people wanted to buy”!

But whilst some or all of the above may have been contributory straws, what is really breaking this camel’s back is the intolerable fetter on production imposed by the overproduction crisis. Ford’s financial director, Bob Shanks, announcing the impending restructuring, summed it up memorably: “We swim with ankle weights, big ones.”

Whilst Ford has not made cars in Britain since 2002, it has engine plants in Bridgend and Dagenham and currently employs about 12,000 workers across the UK in sales, research and admin. Some or all of these jobs may well be under threat. Ford is already looking at slashing its 464 dealerships in Britain. (Thousands of jobs at risk in Ford crisis cuts by John Collingridge, Sunday Times, 2 September 2018)