Ford, excluded from Europe's premium diesel engine boom until now, plans to make up for lost time by introducing three new diesel engine families, all to be made at its Dagenham engine plant in the UK.
Although Ford has an extensive diesel engine lineup, it failed to recognize the importance of high pressure, common rail engines, the ticket to entry in the premium diesel passenger car segment. No Ford brand production car currently has a common rail diesel engine.
But Ford of Europe President David Thursfield said that situation would change soon with the introduction of a diesel engine, known internally as the 132 Puma four-cylinder engine, in the Ford Mondeo in the first quarter of 2001. Ford sources also say Focus could get a common rail diesel even sooner than that.
The new common rails will include a family of engines produced by a joint venture between Ford and PSA/Peugeot-Citroen, a larger family of engines to be used in Fords and shared with Jaguar and Volvo, and the DuraTorq family to be used in the Transit. A variation of that engine will be developed separately for passenger cars.
To prepare for the upcoming diesel blitz, Ford has committed to investing about A500 million into the Dagenham engine plant and adding 500 engine assembly jobs there. In addition, about 240 engineers will relocate from Ford's Dunton diesel engineering building to a new facility being built at Dagenham.
Ford has designated Dagenham as its global center of excellence for diesel engines.
If Ford's predictions for diesel growth come through, the factory could produce an additional 80,000-100,000 more engines than it makes today. Dagenham currently makes 200,000-300,000 engines a year. Some of those are gasoline engines.
The news was announced as part of a series of measures affecting Ford's European operations, including the ending of car production at Dagenham. Until recently, Dagenham built the Mazda 121 as well as the Ford Fiesta. Production of the 121 - which was a rebadged Fiesta - came to an end when Mazda began importing the Demio to Europe.
The new engine operation will be the first ever to supply Jaguar with diesels.