Ford of Britain's Dagenham engine plant celebrated 40 years of production for Ford Transit with the introduction of a new 2.2-litre diesel unit for the vehicle - itself 40 years old this year.
Diesel engine builders joined managers and trade union representatives at the 'job one' ceremony marking the first of the new power units off the line. Production will rise to 200,000 engines a year by June 2006.
The engine is the product of the fourth phase of cooperation on diesel engines between Ford and PSA Peugeot Citroen. The agreement was signed in 1998, since when the manufacturers have jointly built over 4,000,000 engines and seen diesel penetration soar to 55 per cent of car sales in some European markets.
Dagenham plant benefited from £82 million of investment to design and manufacture the clean and efficient commercial vehicle engine. The new business takes Ford Dagenham's output over a million engines a year.
It adds a sixth product to Dagenham's proven diesel line-up, which spans 1.8 to 2.7-litre engines. The site has already seen investment worth more than £550 million since 2003, when Dagenham was declared the company's global centre for diesel engine design and production.
Trevor Leeks, engine line area manager, said: "The successful launch of this landmark Dagenham product is a credit to this plant's ability to win more business in the face of stiff competition and also to the 2,350 people who work in diesel assembly producing high tech engines."
Plant union convenor Terry Burns said: "This is more positive news for Dagenham. It's not only good for those who work in plant, it is good for the whole community."
Development work on the 2.2-litre light van engine took place in Ford's Dagenham Diesel Centre, which is adjacent to engine plant. The two facilities worked together to bring the engine from the design drawing board to job one in 24 months.
Dagenham has produced engines for the iconic Ford Transit since 1965. Then the plant supplied V4 petrol engines to the new commercial vehicle which went on to dominate van sales for its entire 40-year lifetime.
The Ford Transit range will include the new Dagenham-built engine from 2006. Environmental considerations were uppermost in the minds of the Dagenham engineering team. This new engine produces half the amount of nitrogen oxide emissions compared with its predecessors. Carbon dioxide emissions are down by 20 per cent and particulates by 40 per cent.
As part of Ford and PSA Peugeot Citroen's cooperation, further production capacity announced last year will bring 1.4 and 1.6-litre diesel engines to Dagenham from 2007.
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