LONDON - Ford of Europe is looking for a partner to handle its forge and foundry operations in Cologne.
Ford employs about 1,100 between the two facilities.
The company has already agreed to a joint venture to operate its three European manual transmission factories.
The move away from in-house manufacturing toward joint ventures and outsourcing is a centerpiece of Ford's lengthy review of its European operations.
That review concluded May 12 with the announcement that Ford would close one of its five principal car assembly plants: Dagenham, England.
Ford is trying to find ways to cut costs and increase revenues to reverse its dismal financial performance in Europe over the past few years.
The forge and foundry partnerships could be modeled after the joint venture Ford is forming with Getrag, the Ludwigsburg, Germany-based transmission maker. The Getrag joint venture will take over operation of Ford's manual transmission plants in Cologne; Halewood, England; and Bordeaux, France.
The plants employ 3,700 workers and produced 1.72 million transmissions in 1999. Together, they have capacity to build 2.4 million units.
The joint venture transmission plants will make transmissions for all Ford Motor Co. brands. They will probably also sell transmissions to other manufacturers, said Ford of Europe Chairman Nick Scheele.
Technology in manual transmissions is changing and the joint venture will help Ford move into such new product areas as six-speeds and auto manuals, Scheele said.
Getrag is one of the world's leading manual transmission manufacturers with 5,000 employees at 11 locations in Germany, India, Italy and the USA.
Ford is not planning other joint ventures of this nature at the moment, but Scheele said that doesn't mean Ford won't look for other outsourcing opportunities.
With the all-new Ford Fiesta supermini due to arrive in the market in late 2001, Ford will be looking to buy modules such as fully pre-tested instrument panels and complete rear-axle assemblies with brake drums, Scheele said. Those modules will arrive at the assembly line in Cologne from a new supplier park nearby.
Ford already has supplier parks operating at two plants in Europe: Valencia, Spain, and Saarlouis, Germany. A supplier park is also being built at the Genk, Belgium, plant.