Page last updated at 12:20 GMT, Saturday, 26 September 2009 13:20 UK

Car audio jobs ' to move abroad'

Harman International
216 jobs are claimed to be threatened at the Bridgend factory

Fears are growing for almost 220 jobs at a car speakers plant in Bridgend, with claims that the work will go to another factory in Hungary.

The Welsh Automotive Forum believes that Harman International is phasing out manufacturing at its Harman Becker factory in the town over 18 months.

More than 500 people work at the plant and the forum says 300 will still be employed in research and development.

The company was quoted as saying it had "little choice but to rationalise".

The plant produces speakers for luxury brands, including Mercedes and BMW.

It's one of those situations where you feel very sorry for the people involved - they've done everything right but the parent companies look globally
Tim Williams, Welsh Automotive Forum

BBC Wales has been unable to contact the company for comment, but according to the Western Mail, Harman said that over the last year revenues in its automotive division fell 30%, and the Bridgend plant saw sales down by 40%.

The newspaper quoted the company saying that it had "excess capacity in many of its divisions".

It said that "over the next few years the automotive economic outlook for Europe and USA is predicted to realise zero growth" and car makers would also "seek to reduce cost in an attempt compete more vigorously for market share".

It added: "As a consequence Harman has little choice but to rationalise and consolidate its manufacturing capability. Regrettably Bridgend manufacturing is affected and over the next 18 months speaker manufacturing will transfer to Hungary."

The newspaper said no jobs were expected to go for 12 months.

Tim Williams, chief executive of the forum, said Harman had plants in the US, Mexico, and China, as well as in Hungary and Wales.

'Fantastic quality'

He said that while the Bridgend plant was world class, with "fantastic levels of quality and production rates," much of the car industry was suffering in the economic downturn.

"I believe that this process [of] looking at sites globally... means that the Bridgend manufacturing side will be transferred to the Hungary site over the next 18 months and that will probably mean a loss of about 216 jobs.

"Harman at Bridgend is the centre of excellence for research and development [R & D] for the other manufacturing sites, and this will continue, thank goodness.

Carwyn Jones AM
Losing 200 jobs is not only a body blow to the economy here in Bridgend but also tremendous blow to those people
Carwyn Jones AM, Bridgend

"This is something we have to be very thankful for: the management and the workforce there have done a fantastic job over the years. This site has been there for 25 years in total and leaving the R & D is a great testament.

"It's one of those situations where you feel very sorry for the people involved - they've done everything right but the parent companies look globally.

"They see where their manufacturing sites are and it's very unfortunate for everybody at the Bridgend site that we are seeing the manufacturing side disappearing.

"Unfortunately these days manufacturing is seen to be done in areas where the perception is under the heading of low cost and unfortunately for us here the parent company sees Hungary as the preferred location."

Bridgend AM Carwyn Jones, who is also counsel general in the Welsh Assembly Government, said: "It all seems very mysterious.

"When you have an announcement like this you would expect that it would come from the company itself but we've had nothing so far. And really there needs to be some certainty now."

He said the first he knew about it was when contacted by BBC Radio Wales and had tried to make inquiries with the company, but with no confirmation.

"If there are 300 jobs remaining then of course that's to be welcomed, but losing 200 jobs is not only a body blow to the economy here in Bridgend but also a tremendous blow to those people actually losing their jobs."

He urged the company to contact local politicians and the local authority "to see what could be done, and let's work together to see if we can ensure that these people do keep their jobs".



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