The factory that Ford operates in Saarlouis, Germany, may not stop building cars in 2025 after all. While the firm plans to stop car production there halfway through the 2020s, it's reportedly talking to several parties about taking over the plant, including Chinese carmaker BYD.
Anonymous sources told The Wall Street Journal that a team of top Ford officials will travel to China this month to discuss the terms of a potential sale. There's no word yet on how much Ford is asking for the facility, and neither party has commented on the report.
The publication warns that negotiations are ongoing and that the deal may not be finalized. However, if BYD doesn't bite, Ford reportedly plans to try selling the plant to someone else. Turnkey car factories don't come up for sale on a regular basis, and the Blue Oval has about 15 interested parties including manufacturers and groups of investors who would presumably purchase the plant in a bid to rent or lease it.
Ford opened the Saarlouis plant in 1970; the facility has built emblematic cars like the Escort, the Capri, and the Fiesta. The only model currently rolling off the assembly line is the Focus. About 4,600 employees still work there, but production is scheduled to end in 2025 without a direct successor. Ford's decision to idle the plant drew a dark cloud of disapproval from German unions, and officials claim that the company pledged to keep up to 700 people employed after car production ends in 2025 by using the plant to build unspecified components.
BYD has already established a foothold in Europe, though it's far from being a household name. In 2017, it opened a factory in Komárom, Hungary, that builds electric buses and carries out research and development activities. It's too early to tell what it would do with Ford's Saarlouis plant; it could build cars, buses, or something else entirely.