The privately-owned company blamed its decision to pull out of South Wales on the economic slump, which has hit the automotive industry hard. The Unite union described the news as a “terrible blow.”
Management told workers at the plant in Miskin near Cardiff , following a three-month consultation. The company considered shedding 300 jobs and carrying on with a smaller operation, or closing the plant completely in 2011.
The division in charge of the plant will now recommend to the Bosch board that production should be phased out. The consultation is being extended until February as unions and staff try to thrash out redundancy terms, before the Bosch board makes a final decision.
The factory, which makes alternators for leading German carmakers including BMW and Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz, is set to shut in the summer of next year. Production will be transferred to Hungary. Plant director Adam Wilmott said labour costs there are only 65 per cent of those in Cardiff.
The move is a serious blow to the region where traditional industries such as coal and steel are in decline. The other major employer in the area is steel-maker Corus, which is cutting more than 1,000 jobs along the M4 at Port Talbot.
“There should have been some alternative at a site this size, with the number of people they employ, that the company could have looked for,” said Unite Regional Officer David Lewis. But he acknowledged that there is overcapacity in several divisions of Bosch.
“Everyone is bitterly disappointed that there’s not a hope of something being retained.”
Bosch, which is set to make its first operating loss for six decades, said demand for the alternator had dropped dramatically, with sales down 45 per cent last year. “I deeply regret that we could not find a solution for the Cardiff plant,” said Stefan Asenkerschbaumer, President of Bosch starter motors division, who rejected a plan to keep the plant open with the loss of 300 jobs. The worst economic downturn for many decades had “left its mark” on the Bosch group, he said.