ECONOMY

Ford wraps up purchase of Automobile Craiova

CRAIOVA (Reuters) – Ford Motor Co officially took over Romanian carmaker Automobile Craiova yesterday, committing to produce Ford cars here from mid-2009 and an unspecified small car from 2010. Ford, the sole bidder for the European Union newcomer’s struggling plant, formerly called Daewoo Romania, agreed last September to pay 57 million euros ($88 million) for a 72.4 percent stake. «There has been a lot of speculation… about what that first vehicle will be… We shall begin manufacturing the award-winning Transit Connect here in Craiova from next year,» said John Fleming, head of Ford Europe. Fleming, who reiterated Ford’s commitment to transform the plant into a state-of-the-art manufacturing unit, said the Craiova capacity would be used to meet growing demand for the Transit Connect, as the car is to go on sale in selected American markets in the summer of 2009. But the official, who attended the handing-over ceremony with President Traian Basescu and Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu, did not say what model Ford would produce from 2010. «Our first Romanian car will be unique to Craiova. It will be a small car, not the new Fiesta, and will be for sale in all our European markets,» he said. The centrist cabinet bought back the carmaker from its bankrupt South Korean owner, Daewoo Motor, in late 2006 for $51 million and paid another $10 million for its debts. Ford has said it plans to invest 675 million euros in the plant, which produced 24,000 Daewoo vehicles in 2006. It intends to raise employment to around 7,000 from 3,900 at present, and plans to reach output of 300,000 units a year.