Ford will invest £150mn in its Halewood plant in Liverpool to expand production of electric vehicle parts, in a move that secures the site’s future and gives a boost to the UK car industry following a dismal year.
The investment means that by 2026 more than two-thirds of electric vehicles made by Ford in Europe will rely on parts manufactured at Halewood, which employs 500 people.
The renewed backing for the plant comes on top of a £230mn investment Ford made last year and comes as the US company prepares to switch to only selling electric cars in the UK and Europe by 2030, and electric vans by 2035.
Last year’s investment gave the plant the capacity to make 250,000 so-called electric drive units, which contain an electric gearbox and link the battery and wheels. The injection of another £150mn into the plant, which currently makes parts for internal combustion engines, will lift that capacity to 420,000 a year, starting from 2024.
“[Halewood] is playing a critical part as our first in-house investment in EV component manufacturing in Europe,” said Ford’s European operations director Kieran Cahill.
The decision by Ford is a welcome fillip for the UK auto industry, which is racing to attract investment to build the infrastructure needed before the sale of new petrol and diesel models is banned in the UK in 2030.
Last year, the industry secured a £1bn investment from Nissan and its battery partner Envision AESC to turn a site in Sunderland into a global electric car hub. Stellantis also pledged £100mn to make electric vans at Ellesmere Port.
However, this year has been disappointing with BMW confirming the end of electric Mini production in Oxford, and UK start-ups Arrival and Britishvolt facing funding and production troubles.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders this week cut its production forecast for the sector through to 2025, warning that more government support was required as the industry confronted rising energy costs and the need for more training for staff and apprentices.
The industry “needs swift and decisive action that addresses the immediate challenges and gives us a fighting chance of winning the global competition”, said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes.
Some £24mn of Ford’s new investment will be allocated to the company’s Dunton centre in Basildon, which will prepare prototypes of the modules and will train Halewood staff to produce the new electric drive units.
The units made at Halewood will be used in the electric Puma car as well as Ford’s range of electric Transit and Tourneo vans.
International trade secretary Kemi Bedenoch said: “Boosting electric car production is key to our strategy to combat climate change and today’s news demonstrates how our manufacturing industry, our exports and our economy will benefit from this transition.”