BIRMINGHAM, England - Ford Motor Co.'s carmaking operations in Britain are at least 20 percent less productive than Ford's best U.S. plants, warned Alex Trotman, the company's CEO.
Speaking to the influential Confederation of British Industry in November, Trotman blamed the shortfall on working practices, excessive indirect labor and infrastructure problems.
He warned that poor output per worker was the main cause of job losses in the United Kingdom. But, he conceded, weaker export markets also played a role.
'Productivity is not what it should be, and we're seeing the repercussions of that now with new layoffs every week,' he said.
A recent Economist Intelligence Unit report rated the output of Ford's Dagenham, England, plant at 62 cars per employee annually. That compared with 79 at Ford's Wayne, Mich., plant; 75 for Atlanta; 71 at St. Louis; and 69 for Chicago.
Part of the problem, Trotman said, stems from 'a degree of disdain' in Europe for industry in general and manufacturing in particular.
He said that while 35 percent of U.S. college graduates go into engineering careers, only 8 percent of their European university counterparts wanted to be involved in engineering or manufacturing.
'Manufacturing careers are avoided by too many talented people in the U.K. and throughout Europe,' Trotman said. 'We're losing too much talent to win in a competitive war.'
Trotman, the architect of the Ford 2000 program, predicted that only six major automakers would survive the next century, with two apiece based in the United States, Europe and Japan.
Trotman said the dramatic shrinkage will be forced by a global dogfight for share in an industry burdened by 40 percent excess capacity.
That translates into a capacity glut of 19 million vehicles in a world that buys 50 million each year, he said.
By 2002, Trotman said, Ford believes that figure will climb to 22 million surplus units.