Ford Said to Plan to Shut Last U.K. Vehicle Factory

Ford Motor Co. (F), seeking to stop losing money in Europe, intends to close its van plant in Southampton, England, its last vehicle-making factory in the U.K., said two people familiar with the automaker’s plans.

The factory, which employs 534 workers, will probably close when Ford ceases production of the current version of the Transit commercial van as early as next year, said the people, who asked not to be identified revealing internal plans. Southampton produces Transit chassis cabs that can be customized into various commercial vehicles.

Southampton’s closing may precede the 2014 shutdown of Ford’s car and van plant in Genk, Belgium, which the automaker announced today. Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford’s vehicle factories in Europe are operating at 63 percent of capacity, according to Morgan Stanley. Southampton last year built fewer than 30,000 vehicles, using less than one-third of its capacity, according to IHS Automotive.

“It’s brave and it’s decisive,” Adam Jonas, an analyst with Morgan Stanley who rates Ford overweight, said yesterday of the automaker’s plant closures in Europe. “It shows the confidence of the leadership of the company to get it done while there’s a crisis going.”

Ford has said it will lose more than $1 billion in Europe this year as car sales fall to near a 20-year low. The sovereign debt in Europe has sapped consumer confidence.

John Gardiner, a spokesman for Ford, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Sky News reported on the planned shutdown earlier today.

To contact the reporter on this story: Keith Naughton in Southfield, Michigan, at knaughton3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at jbutters@bloomberg.net

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