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Ford Southampton plant

Ford Southampton plant
Built 1939
Location Swaythling, Southampton, England
Industry Automotive
Products Vans
Employees 500
Area 44-acre (180,000 m2)
Volume 630,000 square feet (59,000 m2)
Ford Transit vans awaiting export from Southampton Docks

The Ford Southampton plant was a motor vehicle assembly plant, located in Swaythling on the north eastern outskirts of Southampton, England. It was the western European home to the production of the Ford Transit van.[1] The last vehicle was produced on 26 July 2013, ending Ford's 100 plus year vehicle assembly history in the UK.[2]


The plant, located on a 44-acre (180,000 m2) site near to Southampton Airport, was built as a shadow factory to assemble aircraft components for engineering firm Cunliffe-Owen Aircraft, opened by the Mayor of Southampton on 2 February 1939.[3] At the outbreak of World War II, its whole supply chain was switched to produce parts for the Supermarine Spitfire. Recognised as an important part of the British war effort, it was bombed on a number of occasions by the Nazi Luftwaffe, the first in September 1940.[3] In the latter years of the war, the site was used to assemble the Spitfire.[3]

After Cunliffe-Owen was placed in receivership in 1947, the factory was bought in 1949 by Briggs Motor Bodies, who supplied Ford of Britain with bodies for their vehicles. In 1953 Ford acquired Briggs, and hence gained control of the 630,000 square feet (59,000 m2) Southampton plant.[3] The factory now specialised in building truck bodies, which were attached to the chassis that had been produced at Slough.

From 1965, Ford had started to produce the Ford Transit in Great Britain, with bodies from Swaythling shipped by road to be mated with chassis at the Langley, Berkshire factory, near Slough. In 1972, Ford of Britain invested £5M in the Southampton plant, enabling it to make the complete Transit van. The first Transit rolled off of the production line in the same year, given to the mayor to be used as a gift for a local charity.[3] from this point until the mid-1980s was the height of production, with the factory employing 4,500 workers.

In 1983, with construction of the M27 motorway starting, the site was permanently cut off from Southampton Airport.[3] This made a compact site even more so, with: the motorway to the north; a railway to the south; a graveyard to the east; and pinned in by Southampton Airport. This makes parts of the factory unique, with the paint shop arranged on the vertical axis over six stories, as opposed to the traditional horizontal layout.[3]

In 2002, Ford stopped producing passenger cars in the UK, leaving the Southampton made Transit as their only British-made vehicle.[1] In 2009, with the new Ford Otosan plant in Kocaeli Province, Turkey in full production, Ford resultantly halved production at Southampton and reduced the workforce to just over 500.[3] The 6millionth Ford Transit rolled off of the production line in 2009.[3]

Engines were sourced from either the Dagenham or Bridgend plants. This allowed the factory to produce up to 75,000 vehicles annually, of which 50% were exported.[1]


In early 2011, Ford of Europe confirmed that Southampton would continue to make the short and medium wheelbase, and Tourneo minibus versions of the Transit until the end of 2011. Production of these units was then consolidated to Turkey in 2012, while Southampton was to continue as the European centre for the chassis-cab variant of Transit, with production ramped up to 35,000 units a year.[4]

On 26 October 2012 Ford announced that, as part of a larger cutback of their European production capacity, the Southampton factory would close altogether in July 2013, with production for Europe of all the new Transit models shifted to Ford Otosan in Kocaeli.[5] The last Transit went into production on 15 July 2013 and rolled of the production line on 26 July. Workers who have not either accepted redundancy or early retirement, are being redeployed to either:[2]

  • New £12M distribution centre at Southampton Docks
  • A new vehicle refurbishment plant at the existing site, employing 134 staff
  • Ford's other UK factories manufacturing engines at Bridgend or Dagenham


  1. ^ a b c "Ford Transit Southampton". Retrieved 15 May 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "Last shift at Ford's Transit van factory in Swaythling".  
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Matt Treacy (30 April 2010). "How Southampton became 'home' to the Ford Transit van". BBC Hampshire & Isle of Wight. Retrieved 15 May 2012. 
  4. ^ Glynn Williams (16 September 2011). "Ford Transit plant in Southampton given good news over future". Retrieved 15 May 2012. 
  5. ^ "Ford Transit factory to close". Bournemouth Echo. Retrieved 26 October 2012. 
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