Ford to close Genk, Belgium, plant

Belgium will lose 9,000 jobs when Ford Motor Company closes a major European plant there.

Ford blamed sagging car sales in Europe for its restructuring plans, when the company told the management council of the Genk plant that it was to close production at the factory built exactly 50 years ago.

In response to the news, Christian Democrat union representative Johan Lamers said, "This is taking us by surprise and is an extremely bitter pill."

Europe's debt crisis has led to a general slump in car sales. Ford is feeling the pressure after seen shrinking demand for its cars.

Europe generates 25% of Ford's sales, but the company anticipates losing above £800,000 million in 2012 in Europe. Financial analysts for the industry state that Ford's manufacturing capacity exceeds its needs.

Officials in the region of northern Flanders in Belgium are looking for ways to get back the 57 million euros they put forth in 2010 to entice Ford to maintain its presence in the area for the foreseeable future.

Flanders minister president Kris Peeters said, "It is incomprehensible and a nightmare for those people. In October 2010, we negotiated and signed a deal worth many millions. And now they said 'OK, let's close Genk'."

The Genk factory manufactures the Galaxy, the midsize Mondeo and the S-MAX. Ford has announced that the manufacture of all three lines will be moved to Valencia, Spain.

In a statement, CEO Ford of Europe Stephen Odell said: "The proposed restructuring of our European manufacturing operations is a fundamental part of our plan to strengthen Ford's business in Europe."

Ford's sales struggles in Europe are evidenced by the data from the European carmakers' association, or Acea. While overall sales of European mark cars have fallen 10.8% in the year to September, Ford's sales plunged 14.9%.

The Genk factory accounts for 30% of Belgium's car production.

The news was received by workers with tears, but general calmness. They lit a bonfire at the plant's front gate, but as the factory has been on a three-week layoff due to low demand, there was little union action taken in response to the news.

Gustav Janssen voiced the fears of many of the Genk factory workers as they faced unemployment: "Well, where are we going to find a job? It is very difficult in this time, in this crisis."

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