Page last updated at 05:47 GMT, Wednesday, 31 March 2010 06:47 UK

UK production of Ford Transit vans 'extended into 2012'

Ford Transits
Ford blamed a fall in commercial van sales for the job losses in the UK

Production of Ford's Transit panel vans in the UK is to be extended into 2012, the vehicle maker has told the BBC.

The firm axed half of its 1,100 workforce at the UK's only assembly plant in Southampton last year.

Ford had said production of the panel vans, which is being moved to Turkey, would cease at the factory in 2011 to be replaced by Transit chassis cabs.

The manufacturer, which makes about 35,000 vans a year at the site, said the move should not affect jobs.

The site will produce similar numbers of chassis cabs, which allows users to adapt the body of the vehicle for specific use.

The final vans will roll off the production line once the next generation of Transit vans are ready to be manufactured in Turkey.

'Last outpost'

A Ford spokesman said: "The plan remains the same at Southampton but we are unsure when the next generation of Transit will come in which pushes production of the current panel vans beyond 2011 at the site.

"Ford has outlined a multi-million pound investment plan for Southampton as lead plant for the chassis cab variants of the next model.

"The UK remains an important market for Transit."

Steve Banner, from What Van? magazine, said it would be a sad day when the final panel van rolls off the production line in the UK.

He said: "The Transit plant in Southampton is the last outpost of vehicle assembly in the UK for Ford.

"The Transit will continue in chassis cab form, but of course it won't be a van."

More than 500 workers at the factory in Swaythling took voluntary redundancy or retirement last May.

The plant has also been reduced to a single shift.

The manufacturer blamed "unprecedented" economic conditions.

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