Annual volume will fall from 70,000/75,000 units to around 35,000 and the plant will only build chassis cabs; not vans. All van versions of the new Transit will be assembled in Turkey, a cheaper place to build vehicles than Britain thanks to rock-bottom labour costs.

Some £20m will be pumped into Southampton nevertheless in preparation for the introduction of the new model, Ford promises.

The south coast plant is hemmed in by a number of artificial barriers, including the M27 motorway, Southampton Airport and a cemetery, so opportunities for major expansion are limited. It is, however, based in Ford's biggest market for Transit — Britain — and is close to a major port, which aids exports.