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  1. ITV Report

Transit - best seller for 25 years

The Ford Transit Assembly Plant in Southampton, as union leaders have been called to a meeting amid fears the factory is to close. Photo: PA

The Ford Transit used to be white van man's transport of choice and has been the best-selling van in the UK for over a quarter of a century.

The Transit has been built in Southampton since 1972, although parts were produced there from 1953 for assembly in Langley in Berkshire.

Around 2.2 million Transits have been made in Southampton since 1972, although production slumped from 66,000 in 2008 to 28,000 last year after the plant moved to single shift operation.

The plant, close to Southampton city centre, used to employ thousands of workers, but the workforce was halved three years ago to 500.

Analysts believe the writing has been on the wall since then, not helped by a limited amount of space for the plant to expand, given its proximity to the M27, Southampton airport, a busy railway line - and a graveyard.

"The site is land-locked. When the paint shop was recently extended, it was built on top of another building," said one analyst.

The only other country building Transits is Turkey after production was ended some years ago at the Ford factory in Genk, Belgium.

Ford has also announced that the Genk site is to close altogether next year with the loss of over 4,000 jobs.

Engines for the Transit are developed at the Ford research centre in Dunton, Essex and built at Dagenham.

The Transit was awarded the prestigious title of International Van of the Year in 2007, with the judges praising Ford's engineers for making one of Europe's best vans "even better."

Driveability was described as excellent and judges said the cab interior had been brought up to a level approaching that of a car.

Union officials said it was a "very worrying" time for the Southampton workforce and the closure will be described as a blow to the motor industry in general, and to Southampton in particular.

Landmark Transit dates:

1965 - First UK-built Transit assembled at Langley.

1972 - Production moved to Southampton

1991 - Southampton's millionth Transit built

2010 - Production reaches six million between all Ford plants making the van.

New Transit models were introduced 1986, 2000, 2006 and 2012.

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