Ford's high-tech Bridgend engine plant in Wales is expanding following a £100 million of investment to produce a new premium 3.2-litre six-cylinder power unit.
Today at the Bridgend plant Rt Hon Rhodri Morgan, First Minister of Wales, attended the ceremony which started volume production of the all-new engine.
The first customer for the short in-line six-cylinder engine, designated SI6 at the plant, is Volvo Car Corporation for its new S80 flagship saloon and freshened XC90 sports utility vehicle. The compact SI6 engines are assembled on the Bridgend line which already produces V8s and features flexible technology - enabling operators to switch between different products.
Annual volumes of the all-alloy, 24-valve 3.2-litre SI6 at full capacity will be 209,000. This is in addition to Bridgend's 78,100 annual V8 output on the same line. The new SI6 and V8 engines are at the forefront of Ford Bridgend's expansion that will result in the production of a million engines a year by 2009. Output at Ford Dagenham, in Essex, is also on track to top a million engines a year, bringing Ford's total UK engine production up to two million units a year.Increasing demand
Employment levels at the plant are rising to meet the increasing demand for its latest six- and eight-cylinder units and its four-cylinder volume engines. Ford Bridgend employs 1,629 skilled production and support employees, with a further 250 recruits required in the next two years.
The first SI6 off the line marks the completion of a £245 million two-year investment programme at the plant to produce the new engines for Ford Motor Company's Premier Automotive Group brands. The £145 million 4.4 and 4.2-litre V8 programme, which debuted in May 2004, was for Range Rover, Land Rover Discovery and Jaguar models. The SI6, representing the balance of the investment, is for Volvo and other vehicle applications to be announced later. Regional grant aid of up to £19.7 million has come from the Welsh Assembly Government.
Rhodri Morgan, First Minister for Wales, said: "What I have seen today at Ford's Bridgend plant is a motivated, highly skilled workforce turning out high quality engines for the Ford Motor Company car range.
"Our proven success in Wales has helped us win this contract. It is all about having the track record and keeping the track record. We have the flexibility and quality levels required to make new automotive products a success. This is what has earned this massive investment."
John Fleming, Ford of Europe president and chief executive officer, said: "The Ford Bridgend team has displayed dedication and determination on the SI6 project. I am proud and impressed by an operation which has cornered our petrol engine market in the UK - producing high technology powertrains with capacities ranging from 1.25 to 4.4-litres."
Derek Crabb, Volvo's powertrain vice president, said: "The SI6 engine has been designed by Volvo to create a harmonious, high-class driving experience in every respect. Ford Bridgend's involvement has been key to achieving this."
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