Ford Dagenham plant celebrates 90th anniversary

A large group of employees stand together at Ford Dagenham

Ford Dagenham employees celebrate the plant's 90th anniversary. - Credit: Spencer Griffiths

In October 1931, the first vehicle rolled off the production line at Ford’s newest global production facility in Dagenham.

Over the 71 years that followed, almost 11 million cars, trucks and tractors were built - which, if placed end to end, would stretch more than 400,000km or 10 times around the world.

To date, close to 50 million engines have also been produced at the Dagenham site.

First Vehicle off assembly line, 1st October 1931Dagenham - Model A Truck.

The first vehicle rolls off the assembly line at the Dagenham factory on October 1, 1931. - Credit: Ford Motor Company

Nine decades after opening, Dagenham continues to play a major role in Ford’s European operations, building the advanced technology diesel engines that power many of the company’s passenger and commercial vehicles.

An event was held at Ford Dagenham on Thursday (October 7) to celebrate the factory's 90th anniversary and hundreds of thousands of people who have been part of the team over the last 90 years.

Speaking at the event, Ford Motor Company Limited chairman and Manufacturing Ford of Europe vice president Kieran Cahill said: “Today is about celebrating with our employees the enormous contribution they and their predecessors have made over many generations to the success of Ford Dagenham.

Picture: Spencer Griffiths

Workers on the engine production line at Ford Dagenham. - Credit: Spencer Griffiths

“Still London’s largest manufacturing site, the fact that Ford Dagenham continues to be such an important part of our European manufacturing operations is testament to our employees’ involvement in the site’s past, present and future.”

Last year, at the height of the pandemic, Ford Dagenham helped to produce up to 200 respiratory ventilators a day as part of a consortium making two models for the NHS.

Dagenham engine plant convenor Jason Brandon said: “Engines, cars, trucks, tractors and ventilators.

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“What immediately comes to mind when I think of the 90-years anniversary are the generations of families that have contributed to making this such a fantastic facility and helping us arrive at this milestone.

“They have proven over and over again both their versatility and their ability to rise to any challenge and, when necessary, diversify into other areas of manufacturing.

“We can do anything in Dagenham and I’m sure, notwithstanding the ongoing challenges for the internal combustion engine in the near future, we can secure future Ford opportunities in manufacturing and alternative sectors and give more generations of Ford families the opportunity to work for this great company.”

Cars on an assembly line with workers

The assembly line at the Dagenham plant in 1935. - Credit: Ford Motor Company

In March this year, it was confirmed the Dagenham site would produce the latest technology diesel engines for the next generation Ford Transit Custom range to be built by Ford Otosan – the company’s Turkish joint venture - from early 2023.

The next generation Volkswagen 1-tonne commercial vehicle will also be built at the same plant in Kocaeli, Turkey, as part of the Ford-Volkswagen Alliance.

Dagenham plant manager Martin Everitt said: “The anticipated incremental engine volumes this creates is expected to help safeguard jobs at Ford Dagenham.

“By 2025, we anticipate that up to 60 per cent of our entire diesel engine volume will be destined just for the one-tonne commercial vehicles being built by Ford Otosan.”

Picture: Spencer Griffiths

Engine manufacturing has been integral to Ford Dagenham since its earliest days, with almost 50 million produced to date. - Credit: Spencer Griffiths

Ford also announced this year that the Dagenham plant will supply the diesel engine for a new light commercial vehicle to be made at the company’s Craiova facility in Romania from 2023.

A new lightweight ambulance model is set to be built in Dagenham from next year, with about 100 jobs expected to be created once production begins, as part of a "strategic alliance" between Ford and emergency vehicle manufacturer Venari Group.

Ford Pro commercial vehicles conversion partner MS-RT is to establish a new £4 million vehicle conversion facility at Ford Dagenham, which will create 50 jobs when it becomes active next year - increasing to 120 when fully operational.

Dagenham is also home to Ford's Transport Operations - responsible for the logistics of transporting components and vehicles across the UK and other functions, including IT.

Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK driver Andy Priaulx with Ford Dagenham workers, holding signed team photos.

Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK driver Andy Priaulx with Ford Dagenham workers, who received signed team photos. - Credit: Spencer Griffiths

Dagenham Transport Operations salaried representative Debbie Dempsey said: “It is awesome to look back at how Dagenham has diversified over the years, making varied, world-leading products.

“All employees, past and present, should feel proud of what they have achieved. 

“Looking to the future, we have all the right ingredients for success, the most important ingredient being our employees who are motivated and dedicated to taking Dagenham forward into the world of electrified vehicles.”