The anticipated move, which would result in 500 job losses, would form part of an overhaul of the manufacturer’s European operations as it scales back in the face of falling demand.

Ford confirmed the Southampton facility produced 28,172 short- and medium-wheelbase Transit vans in 2011 and is forecast to produce 28,239 this year.

A spokeswoman said production has been at this level for three years having stepped up from around 21,000 in 2009. Previously however, the plant had produced about 70,000 units annually.

Ford’s plant in Kocaeli, Turkey assembled 184,500 Transits in 2011 – 78% of the overall total compared to Southampton’s 22%.

Ford has also announced that it plans to close its passenger car plant in Genk, Belgium by the end of 2014.

The company said the restructuring plan would help to address manufacturing overcapacity that had resulted from a 20% drop in total industry vehicle demand in western Europe since 2007.

Ford of Europe boss Stephen Odell said: “The proposed restructuring of our European manufacturing operations is a fundamental part of our plan to strengthen Ford’s business in Europe and to return to profitable growth,”