Ford Selling French Parts Plant To HZ Holdings

Automaker said it plans to sell its automatic transmission plant in Blanquefort, France, to HZ Holding France SAS, as the troubled company focuses on its efforts at home.

NEW YORK (AP) -- Ford Motor Co. on Monday said it plans to sell its automatic transmission plant in Blanquefort, France, to HZ Holding France SAS, as the troubled automaker focuses on its efforts at home.

Ford said the sale of the plant, located outside of Bordeaux, could be completed by April. It did not disclose the value of the deal, but said it does not involve any change in employment levels at the plant.

The plant employs 848 workers, according to Ford's Web site.

Ford said HZ Holding, which owns a steel forging operation near Metz, France, will invest more than 200 million euros ($256.3 million) in the plant for six new projects -- including manufacturing bearing rings for wind turbines -- between now and 2013.

"We firmly stated our intention to secure future production opportunities and safeguard as many jobs as possible at the site," said John Fleming, chairman and chief executive of Ford of Europe.

Ford said the plant will continue to supply automatic transmissions to Ford assembly facilities through 2011. The Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker said it decided to sell the facility after the downturn in its North American market raised questions about the viability of producing the components in France.

Ford has been battered by the collapse of vehicle sales in the U.S. The company last week posted an annual loss of $14.6 billion, its worst-ever yearly performance.

Ford has operated the facility since 1972, and more than 17 million units have been produced there, Ford said.

Shares of Ford rose 2 cents to $1.90 in afternoon trading.

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