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Fears drivers will switch to British-made vans over plans to close Southampton's Transit plant
Ford could face a white van man backlash when it switches Transit production to Turkey.
Tradesmen, politicians and union leaders say the US giant could see thousands of drivers boycotting what has long been billed as the “backbone of Britain”.
Between 2009 and 2011 sales of the best selling Transit in the UK increased by 34 per cent – despite these years being the worst trading conditions for tradesmen since the 1930s Great Depression.
But a growing row over Ford dumping Britain without warning for Turkey has sparked calls for drivers to shun the imported vans in favour of other vehicles such as the British made Vauxhall Vivaro.
This comes as the Daily Echo reveals how the multinational kept Government ministers in the dark about its long term plans for Southampton while taking millions of pounds of public money.
Heavyweight business secretary Vince Cable has now promised a probe into whether Ford bosses lulled ministers into a false sense of security when they signed off subsidies and finance deals.
Unions have also spoken of the sense of betrayal among the 500 strong workforce who were repeatedly reassured that their livelihoods were safe.
Unite regional officer Fred Hanna said: “People are going to be angry when it closes and if they boycott Transits and other Fords that’s the consequence the company will have to pay.”
Transit enthusiast Peter Lee, who founded the 1,000- strong Transit Van Club, said the sense of betrayal among Ford staff – and the wider public was bound to leave a “bitter taste” among van drivers.
He said: “I think it will definitely affect people’s attitudes towards the Transit and I don’t think it will sell in Southampton ever again.”
Mr Lee said the plucky image the US car giant lovingly fostered over decades was one reason why the vehicle was worshipped as “a working class hero” up and down the land.
But he said another reason was because it was made in Hampshire.
“The Southampton plant is as iconic as the van. I think Ford have shot themselves in the foot,” he said.
Read more on the fall-out from Ford's devastating plans to close the Swaythling plant in our in-depth archive.