The job cuts at the car manufacturer Ford in Cologne continue. The management wants to cut up to 3200 jobs in the next two to two and a half years, said the deputy works council chief of the Ford works, Katharina von Haken, on Monday in the cathedral city. That would be the maximum number for the "worst case". At the beginning of the year, Ford still had 14,000 employees in the cathedral city. For the employees, the situation is "shattering," said the works councilwoman. "The colleagues are scared and totally unsure of how things will continue with them." The management justifies the resort to the red pencil with, among other things, centralization in the USA.
Ford is in a state of upheaval, the US car company, which has long focused on internal combustion engines, was late on the electric course. The company will continue to rely on the Cologne site, which is to be converted for the production of new electric models at a cost of billions. In the Saarlouis plant, on the other hand, production is about to end. Ford has already undergone restructuring, three years ago the company still had almost 18,000 employees in the city on the Rhine.
SPD politician: "Shock for all of us"
Politicians also reacted with concern. The chairman of the SPD parliamentary group, Christian Joisten, spoke of a "shock for all of us in Cologne" and warned of an "impending deindustrialization of our country and our region". A new strategy is needed.
In two meetings on Monday, the Ford works council reported to the employees about the company's plans and referred to internal management guidelines for Europe, which were discussed in a committee meeting last Friday. The company's top management did not comment publicly on the matter. Management had “agreed on more time,” said the employee representative from Hebe. "She needs until mid-February to present details to the workforce." It is incomprehensible "that the management is not in a position to pour the staff pure wine".
Now the works council had to deliver the bad news. Of the positions that may be affected, up to 700 are in administration and up to 2500 in product development. "We just put a big wave of restructuring behind us a few years ago," said the works council member at Hebel, shaking her head.
What reasons does the management give for the dismantling?
When asked about the reason given by the management for its project behind closed doors, the employee representative referred to the consequences of supply bottlenecks - for example in the case of semiconductors - and the economic situation in Europe. In addition, there are "homemade factors such as a new brand orientation and further centralization in the USA".
A Ford company spokeswoman said they were "not commenting on the current speculation about a possible restructuring at Ford in Europe". The carmaker is currently accelerating its plans to build a fully electric vehicle portfolio in Europe. From 2030, Ford only wants to sell electric cars in the EU and no more combustion cars. "This transformation will bring significant changes to how we design, build and sell Ford vehicles and will impact our future organizational structure," the company spokeswoman said. Details will be announced "as soon as our plans are final and we have informed our workforce".
No surprise for industry insiders
For those familiar with the industry, the plan by the Americans comes as no surprise. Ford has been shrinking in Europe for decades and is simply not getting anywhere in its car business, says industry expert Ferdinand Dudenhöffer. "They are too small in the car business to be able to face the tough competition from the big players in Europe." It is different with vans, with the Transit model made in Turkey, the US group earns good money.
"For cars, on the other hand, Ford is getting smaller - that's a shrinkage that exacerbates the problem of a lack of mass and profitability." Only the merger with a car industry giant could end this misery. "It's hard to imagine that Ford can do it in Europe on its own."
Dudenhöffer estimates that the Americans only see their Cologne location in a secondary role. The professor is pessimistic about the future of the car manufacturer in the cathedral city. With a view to the plans to cut jobs that have now become known, Dudenhöffer says: "This is not the end of the road."