In the 91-year history of Ford in Cologne, June 1, 1962, was an unforgettable day. The Cologne engine plant began series production on this date. A 1.2-liter V4 engine with 40 horsepower was the first to leave the assembly line. It powered the Ford Taunus 12M, also manufactured in Cologne. Since then, the Cologne engine plant has produced over 28 million engines in various configurations: three to twelve cylinders, V and in-line engines, one to six liters displacement, and outputs ranging from 40 to 725 hp.
When they leave the Cologne engine plant, all engines have one thing in common: they meet Ford's high-quality standards and thus stand for absolute dependability. "This would not have been possible without the commitment and cooperation of the people who work and have worked for us," says Oliver Färber, head of the engine plant. Ford invited all 760 employees at the engine plant to a ceremony on June 1 to commemorate the 60th anniversary. This begins at 11:11 a.m. sharp. This traditional "Cologne" time has a long history at the Ford plant because the engine plant began producing the 1.2 V4 engine in 1962. As part of the anniversary celebrations, a historical exhibition will open.
This story begins in September 1960, with the construction of Hall W1. The construction work was finished in just 13 months. The engine plant was approximately 56,000 square meters in size. It has expanded over the years. First, construct Hall W2. The majority of this hall was built in several phases between 1967 and 1972. In 1990, another hall (W3) was added. When completed in 1992, the engine plant covered approximately 105,000 square meters, the equivalent of roughly 15 soccer fields, and was nearly twice the size when production began in 1962.
Everything happened quickly when engine production began in Cologne. On November 23, 1962, the 100,000th engine rolled off the conveyor belt only five months after series production began. A year and a half later, on July 6, 1964, the Cologne-based company produced the one-millionth engine, and the pace continued: the plant made 10 million engines in 1979 and 20 million in 1996.
The most common engine produced in Cologne was a 4-cylinder in-line engine known as an OHC. It rolled off the assembly line in Cologne-Niehl nearly 6.5 million times in two generations, from 1969 to 1993. It was the powertrain for true Cologne classics such as the Ford Taunus, Ford Capri, Ford Granada, Ford Sierra, and Ford Scorpio.
Other Ford plants worldwide also appreciated the quality of the Cologne engines. Cologne engines and components have been installed in Australia, Asia, Africa, America, and Europe. They were even used in Ford's birthplace, the United States, on true icons like the Ford Bronco and, most notably, the Ford Mustang. From 1974 to 1987, the Cologne-based company produced V6 engines with 2.8 liters and 90 to 115 horsepower for the ultimate American pony car. Next, they supplied it to the Ford Mustang's second and third generations. Finally, the 4.0 liter V6 with 210 hp for the fifth generation Ford Mustang rolled off the assembly line in Niehl from 2005 to 2010.
A Cologne engine also powers James Bond's company car. The quality of the "Made in Cologne" engines were so well recognized in the industry that other manufacturers, such as Matra and Saab, had their drives produced in Cologne by Ford. On the other hand, the Cologne engine plant has had the most extensive collaboration with the British luxury sports car manufacturer Aston Martin. An extra production area was installed in hall W3 for Aston Martin production, which began in 2004. As a result, the largest and most powerful engines ever built by Ford in Cologne were to be built here.
The first Cologne V12 rolled off the assembly line in 2004, with a displacement of 6.0 liters and 456 horsepower, and was intended for the Aston Martin DB9. The most powerful Cologne engines were also a V12 for Aston Martin, albeit a little smaller - with 'only' 5.2 liters displacement. This twin-turbo, produced in Cologne between 2016 and 2021, had 725 hp and was installed in the Aston Martin DBS. The Aston Martin DB10, James Bond's legendary company car in the film "Spectre," was also powered by a Cologne engine. Eight of these models were built for the 007 movies, and two were preserved as show cars. Ford ceased production for Aston Martin in 2021, and in the autumn, pre-series production at the Cologne Ford works was relocated to the converted Hall W3.
What is possibly the best Otto engine is the smallest drive ever produced by Niehl, with a displacement of 1.0 liters. It is the EcoBoost 3-cylinder in-line engine, which has been manufactured in Cologne since 2011. No previous or subsequent Ford engine has received as many technology awards. Until 2019, Ford won eleven awards in the most prestigious international competition, "International Engine of the Year," all with the 1.0l EcoBoost.
On November 11, 2011, EcoBoost's success story began. The guest list reflected the importance of the occasion: Alan Mulally, then-CEO of Ford Motor Company, and Hannelore Kraft, then-Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, attended.
The Fox GDTI, a mild hybrid with 125 and a daily production of 840 units, is now rolling off the assembly line in Cologne. These are installed in the Ford Fiesta from Cologne and the Ford Focus from Saarlouis. In addition to the EcoBoost petrol engines, the Cologne engine plant produces over 2,400 engine blocks per day for the EcoBlue diesel engines (also known as Panther engines), assembled at the Ford diesel engine plant in Dagenham, UK.
The engine plant in Cologne has changed over the last 60 years, as have the engines produced there. The Cologne Ford plant is undergoing the most extensive transformation in the company's history. Ford is investing $2 billion in the plant's conversion into Ford's first European Electrification Center. In 2023, Ford will produce the first fully electric volume model in Europe in Cologne, and another electric model will follow in 2024.
So there will be a lot of change for Ford employees. However, engine plant manager Oliver Färber is optimistic about the future and explicitly mentions his employees' prospects: "We want to take all employees with us in our transformation and continue to use their know-how and experience in the future." Following the summer factory vacation, a significant training offensive at the Cologne Ford works begins, with a wide range of training and further education measures explicitly aimed at employees from the production areas. "Every employee who is eager to learn and grow will have the opportunity to participate in the future and actively shape the Cologne Electrification Center."