A series of recent announcements confirmed that the UK is one of the world's leading engine production centres. When all the plans reach maturity before the end of the decade, the country will be capable of making more than twice as many engines as cars.
Ford's twin engine production centres at Dagenham and Bridgend will be pivotal in this growth, but expansion by Honda, Nissan and Toyota in the UK and a major commitment to Hams Hall by BMW will lift total engine output to between 3m and 3.5m units a year compared with fewer than 2m last year.The increase will be far higher than those of UK car production and car demand, both of which are expected to edge upwards over the coming years. The UK engines will, of course, help to offset the imbalance in the country's automotive trade.
However, not all recent changes involving engines were positive. Land Rover made the last of its venerable V8s earlier in May, as its future is based on new engines from the parent Ford group.
General Motors quietly stopped making Ecotec V6s at Ellesmere Port this summer. Those engines, which were used in Vauxhall/Opel, Saab, Saturn and Cadillac models, were replaced by a new generation of V6s being made in Australia and North America. Not that the Ellesmere Port V6s achieved the volumes GM expected. The factory had a capacity of over 200,000 a year, but output was down to around 70,000 a year.
On a smaller scale, Aston Martin will transfer V12 engine assembly from Cosworth Technology in Wellingborough to part of the Ford plant in Cologne towards the end of this year. The change also calls for Cologne to make V8s for the smaller AMV8 model Aston will launch next summer. Like Land Rover, the development will bring Ford-owned Aston Martin engine requirements in-house, as Cosworth Technology is a subsidiary of Audi.
Group Lotus has ended engine pro-duction as well. When the last Esprit was made in February, there was no requirement to make more V8s to power them. At the same time, Toyota-designed engines - actually made on contract by Yamaha in Japan - were used when Lotus launched the Elise in the United States earlier this year. Previously, Elise and the related Exige exclusively used the K-series supplied by Powertrain, a sister company of MG Rover under the Phoenix Venture Capital umbrella.
The adoption of Toyota meant fewer orders for Powertrain, which is additionally faced by falling sales of MGs and Rovers and by Ford's strategy of moving its Land Rover engine requirements in-house. The first generation Freelander, for example, was available with the K-series four-cylinder and its KV6 derivative. The only petrol engine in the current model is the K-series, and the all-new Freelander scheduled for 2006 will have Ford-sourced petrol (and diesel) engines.
Otherwise, though, the country's overall engine outlook is much more positive. Ford's plans mean Bridgend and Dagenham between them will soon supply engines for one out of every four vehicles made by the group world-wide.Dagenham, which made 602,000 engines last year, has the potential to produce 800,000 following investments of £325m to make V6 diesels. These are supplied to Land Rover and Jaguar and to Peugeot-Citroen as part of a joint venture with the French group. The Dagenham Diesel Centre was formally opened by Prime Minister Blair last November. Dagenham also makes Duratorq diesels for Mondeo, Focus, Transit and Transit Connect.
Bridgend, which made 561,000 motors last year, will have the potential to turn out 1m a year by 2010 following a £425m investment. In addition to various Zetec petrol engines, Bridgend makes petrol V8s for Jaguars and Land Rovers and is destined to make V6 petrol engines for the same brands.Hams Hall made 124,000 four-cylinder BMW petrol engines last year. That is well below its 400,000 capacity because of the shock sale by BMW of the Rover Group, whose future models were destined to use Hams Hall engines.Now BMW plans to fill the vacant capacity at the £400m plant. The launch of the smaller 1-series will add to BMW's four-cylinder engine requirements. So will the second generation Mini, which will use Hams Hall engines instead of some made in Brazil in a joint venture with Chrysler.
Capacity at the UK's three Japanese car assembly factories - Honda, Nissan and Toyota - is going up. The changes are certain to have knock-on effects on their respective engine outputs, though to what degree is still unclear.Nissan made 330,000 Micras, Almeras and Primeras near Sunderland last year, but just over 281,000 engines, including 17,500 for Tinos made in Spain.
hy the difference? Because some Nissans have diesels made by its alliance partner, Renault.
European diesel demand is on the up - and so, probably, are volumes at Sun-derland. Nissan has an agreement with its employees to add a third shift that would take annual output to half a million a year. The timing depends on demand, but would mean more Sunderland petrol engines and Renault diesels.Toyota is lifting Corolla and Avensis capacity at Burnaston from 220,000 to 285,000 next year as part of a broad European push involving factories in France, the Czech Republic, Poland and Turkey. The firm's engine plant at Deeside, north Wales, which made 180,000 engines last year, will be part of that expansion. Deeside makes a variety of small displacement petrol engines, 2-litre diesels and components that go into engines made in France. Honda at Swindon is destined to grow as well, with Civic and CR-V capacity being increased by 25 per cent to 250,000 a year. Output of petrol engines, including those for the Civic four-door assembled in Turkey, will also go up and diesels will be added next year.
Honda, the world's largest maker of internal combustion engines (think of all those lawn mowers and motorcycles) was slow to grasp the significance of the diesel trend in Europe. But in a little-noticed announcement earlier this year, Takeo Fukui, Honda's president, confirmed that diesel engines will be assembled at Swindon from the end of next year. Which engines, and whether they will be for the CR-V or Civic, was not specified.
While the timing and scale of some of these developments remains fuzzy, the big picture is clear. This country is, literally, becoming a powerhouse for much of Europe's car industry.