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Ford Dagenham
Ford Dagenham
Ford Dagenham Plant and Terminal
Built 1931
Location Dagenham, United Kingdom
Coordinate 51°30′55″N 0°09′11″E / 51.515213°N 0.153114°E / 51.515213; 0.153114Coordinates: 51°30′55″N 0°09′11″E / 51.515213°N 0.153114°E / 51.515213; 0.153114
Industry Automotive
Products Duratorq engine
Employees Approximately 4,000
Area 475 acres (192 ha)

Ford Dagenham is a major automotive factory located in Dagenham, United Kingdom operated by the Ford of Europe subsidiary of Ford Motor Company. The plant opened in 1931 and has produced 10,980,368 cars and over 37,000,000 engines in its history.[1][2]

Vehicle assembly ceased at the plant in 2002 but it continues as a major production site with the capacity to assemble 1.4 million engines a year.[2] In 2008 the plant produced around 1,050,000 engines and was the largest producer of Ford diesel engines globally.[2] Employment at the plant peaked at around 40,000 workers in 1953, and it currently employs around 4,000 people.[2] The plant covers around 475 acres and has received over £800 million of capital investment since the year 2000.[2]


Origins to 1945[]

Planning of the Dagenham plant began in the early 1920s, a time when lorries were small and road networks little developed. In the UK bulk supplies were still delivered by water transport, so the Dagenham plant, like the Ford Trafford Park plant which it would replace, needed good water access. Dagenham on the southern estuarial edge of Essex offered the prospect of a deep water port which would allow for bulk deliveries of coal and steel on a far larger scale than the barges of the Manchester Ship Canal could manage at the old plant. In 1924 Ford Motor Company purchased land in the Dagenham marshes for £167,700.[3]

On 17 May 1929 Edsel Ford marked the start of construction on the site by cutting the first turf in the marshes.[3] Construction on the site continued for 28 months and required approximately 22,000 concrete piles to be driven down through the clay of the marshland site in order adequately to support a factory that from the start was planned to incorporate its own steel foundry and coal-fired power station.[1][3]

At the time when the plant was planned, western governments were increasingly responding to economic depression with protectionist policies. This was the context in which Henry Ford’s policy of setting up relatively autonomous car-manufacturing businesses in principal overseas markets can be seen. The drive for self reliance implicit in including within the Dagenham plant its own steel foundry and power station nevertheless went beyond anything attempted by other European mass-production auto-makers such as Morris in England, Opel in Germany or Citroën in France. Inspiration for Ford’s Dagenham plant came more directly from Ford’s own Rouge River plant on the edge of Detroit.

The first vehicle out of the Dagenham plant was a Ford AA light truck, produced in October 1931.[1] However, the British economy was in a depressed condition at this time, and the surviving local market for light trucks was dominated by Morris Commercial products. Production at Ford’s Dagenham plant got off to a slow start, but picked up as the local economy recovered so that by 1937 the plant produced 37,000 vehicles, an annual total that would not be exceeded until 1953.[1] Most of the output of the Dagenham plant during the 1930s consisted of various editions of the Ford 8, a successful model first built at Dagenham in 1932 which probably inspired the even more successful Morris 8, first produced at Cowley in 1935 by the UK market leader of the late 1930s.

Wartime production included large numbers of vans and trucks along with Bren gun carriers.[4] The plant produced numerous 'special purpose' engines.[4] Agricultural vehicles were also an important element: at one point the Fordson tractor represented 95% of UK tractor production.[4]

1945 to 2000[]

Ford Works, 1973 -

Ford Dagenham in 1973, displaying what was at the time the largest neon sign in Europe

After the Second World War Ford’s UK operation set the pace for the UK auto-industry and Dagenham products included models such as the Zephyr, Cortina and (until production of Ford’s smaller saloons transferred to Halewood), the Anglia.[1] The 1950s was a decade of expansion: a £75 million plant redevelopment completed in 1959 increased floor space by 50% and doubled production capacity.[4] This went hand in had with the concentration in-house of car body assembly, following the acquisition in 1953 of the company's principal UK body supplier, Briggs Motor Bodies.[4]

The 1960s saw several European auto-makers, including Ford of Britain, investing in new assembly plants on Greenfield sites.[4][citation needed] As production of cars and castings ramped up in the 1960s more space was need so Ford built a new factory for tractor production at Basildon, Essex for the new Ford 1000 series launched in 1965 to replace the aging Fordson Major.

The Dagenham plant was by 1970 becoming one of the Europe’s older mass-production car plants. In 1970, production of the Ford Escort began at Saarlouis in West Germany.[citation needed] By this time the UK auto-industry was gaining a reputation for poor industrial relations,[1] with a particularly lengthy strike leading to a three month shut-down at the Dagenham plant at the start of the summer of 1971. This savaged availability of the Ford Cortina Mk III during its crucial first year. By the time the Ford Cortina Mk IV was introduced to UK customers, the cars inherited several Ford UK engines but were, in other respects, virtually identical to those branded in lhd European markets as Ford Taunus models.

The decision to offer the same models in the UK as in the rest of Europe reduced the company’s vulnerability to further industrial disruption at Dagenham, but it also made cost comparisons between the company’s various European plants increasingly stark. During the closing decade of the twentieth century UK government policy and the country’s status as a major oil producer left the UK with a currency which by several conventional criteria was significantly overvalued against the German Mark and the currencies that tracked it.[citation needed] This tended to exacerbate any cost penalties arising from relative inefficiencies in the Dagenham plant’s operation, and new model investment decisions during the 1990s tended to favour mainland Europe. For instance, the Sierra for the European market had its right-hand drive models made at Dagenham and the left-hand drive models in Belgium; but in 1990 all Sierra production was concentrated in Belgium, leaving the Fiesta as the only model being built at Dagenham. The Sierra's successor, the Mondeo (launched in early 1993), was also built in Belgium. However, Dagenham did become a two-model plant again in January 1996 when the Mazda 121, built alongside the Fiesta as part as a venture with Mazda until its demise four years later.[5]

21st century[]

By 2000 the only Ford cars produced at Dagenham was the Fiesta, itself competing in an increasingly crowded market sector.[6] The lead plant for Fiesta production was in Spain, however. Faced with a cyclical downturn in car demand across Europe, Ford took the decision not to tool the Dagenham plant up for the replacement Fiesta due for launch in 2002, which was the year in which the company produced their last Dagenham built Ford Fiesta. Mindful of its image as a good corporate British citizen, the company stressed that the plant engine building capacity would now be developed to "help the UK to become the producer of one in every four Ford engines the world over".[1]

The site has also been the location of the Dagenham wind turbines since 2004.

See also[]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 "Dagenham: So, no more Dagenham dustbins….", Car Magazine: Page 218. date May 2002. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 "Ford Dagenham at 80". Ford Motor Company. Retrieved on 18 November 2010.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "80 years of Ford at Dagenham", The Telegraph (15 May 2009). Retrieved on 21 November 2010. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 "Ford of Britain: Yesterday today...", Autocar 128 (nbr 3766): 52–54. 18 April 1968. 
  5. [1]
  6. "So long. And thanks for all the Fiestas", Car Magazine: Page 104–105. date August 2000. 

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