BORDEAUX, February 2, 2009 – Ford Motor Company today confirms its intention to sell its automatic transmission plant in Blanquefort, near Bordeaux, to a French company which already owns and operates a very successful steel forging operation near Metz.
The proposed sale, for an undisclosed sum, to HZ Holding France SAS will be examined in consultation with the works council and is also subject to normal regulatory clearance. It could be completed by the end of April.
Under the sale plan there will be no change in employment levels at the plant and HZ Holding will invest between now and 2013 over 200 million Euros in the facility on six new projects, including one in renewable energy. Project partners to HZ Holding will include the German automotive supplier, Johann Hay Automobiltechnik.
"When we revealed our intention to sell the Bordeaux automatic transmission plant, we firmly stated our intention to secure future production opportunities and safeguard as many jobs as possible at the site," said John Fleming, Chairman and CEO, Ford of Europe. "With today's announcement, I think it is clear we have met those commitments. For us it was more important that we find a bidder with a strong commitment to keeping as many jobs as possible rather than a bidder willing to pay the highest price. HZ Holding France SAS, has exciting long-term investment and manufacturing plans for the plant."
"We look forward to proudly continuing Ford's manufacturing activities in the Gironde," said Markus Ziegler, Président Directeur Général, HZ Holding France SAS. "In visits to the plant we were very impressed by the skilled workforce we met and although we considered other sites, it soon became clear to us that Bordeaux offered the best opportunities.”
"Between now and 2013, we plan to invest up to 200 million Euros in the facility through the introduction of new industrial projects. These projects will include the manufacturing of large bearing rings for wind turbines, an extension of the existing heat treatment facility at Blanquefort, joint ventures with an Italian and a German company to manufacture transmission-related parts and other activities related to metal treatment.”
“To implement these projects we will be cooperating closely with three companies in the automotive and renewable energies sector. Our major cooperation partner is Johann Hay Automobiltechnik, a highly regarded German automotive supplier. We already have a very positive relationship with them through joint work at Ascoforge, a French forging company acquired by HZ Holding in 2007.
"Based on our business plan projections and the Ford supply agreement, we do not anticipate any change in employment levels," Ziegler added.
“We see the extension of our cooperation with HZ Holding at the FAI plant as providing a clear advantage for the implementation of business projects that we are planning” said Birger Hammerstein, CEO, Johann Hay Automobiltechnik GmbH & Co. KG. “At FAI we have seen excellent infrastructure, a highly skilled workforce and an impressive management team.”
Supply of automatic transmissions from the Bordeaux plant to Ford assembly facilities will continue until 2011, ensuring financial stability while new projects are implemented.
Additionally, Ford will work closely with HZ Holding in identifying new automotive industry customers for the Bordeaux-made automatic transmissions.
The Getrag-Ford joint venture manual transmission manufacturing facility in Bordeaux is unaffected by the sale of the automatic transmission plant.
Kevin Bennett, the Ford of Europe executive who has headed the company side of the working group established to secure the best future for the plant, said: "We have had extensive talks with the new owners, including site visits to their co-operation partners. We were impressed by their manufacturing capabilities, track record and a client list which includes major motor manufacturers. We have no doubt that HZ Holding is the best company to take the Blanquefort site forward into an exciting new era.
"Such is the new owner's and their industrial partners' commitments to the projects, they will use the consultation time period with the works council to plan for the setting up of engineering teams on site, so that the implementation can begin as quickly as possible," he concluded.
Ford has operated the Bordeaux automatic transmission plant since 1972 and, in that time, around 17 million units have been produced there. A significant downturn in its main market of North America plus technological advances in automatic transmissions called into question the continued viability of making these units in France.
In 2008 the company announced that production at the plant would cease in 2011, but that efforts would be made to find new opportunities for the site and safeguard as many jobs as possible. A working group consisting of Ford senior managers and representatives from local and national authorities, was established and a specialist marketing agency hired as efforts intensified to find a new owner. Last year Ford confirmed it had received inquiries about the plant from several companies. Following discussions with each of them, the list of prospective purchasers was reduced to the point where the talks centered on one company, HZ Holding.
HZ Holding France SAS and the companies with which it co-operates are involved in the production of metal components for the automotive and renewable energy industries. The company acquires medium sized companies that no longer form the core business of their current owners and develops them. HZ Holding France SAS has a successful track record of investing in France through the Ascoforge, Hagondange steel manufacturing facility near Metz.