Ford is cutting up to 400 jobs at its Bridgend engine plant in the first phase of a redundancy push that could ultimately see many thousands of roles axed across its struggling European operations.
Sky News has learnt that trade union officials were notified of a voluntary redundancy drive to shed between 370 and 400 jobs earlier on Friday morning.
The development comes weeks after it emerged that the car-maker was likely to cut as many as 1000 jobs at the Welsh plant over the next two years.
It will deepen a growing sense of gloom about the prospects for an industry which has seen investment slump during the last 12 months, according to figures published this week.
In a statement, a Ford spokesman confirmed the move, saying: “Ford is introducing a voluntary separation programme for hourly and salaried employees at its Bridgend Engine Plant in South Wales as part of its ongoing actions to create a sustainably profitable business in Europe.
“The programme follows discussion with the union on matching the plant’s labour requirements to the projected production volume expectations in the near term.
“It is anticipated that the majority of employees who apply and are selected for voluntary separation under this programme will leave Ford employment in the third and fourth quarters of 2019.”
Ford employs about 13,000 people in the UK, roughly a quarter of its 54,000-strong workforce across Europe.
Last week, Sky News revealed that Ford had calculated that a no-deal Brexit would cost the company as much as $800m (£614m) this year alone as a result of World Trade Organisation (WTO) tariffs and the weakening pound.
Ford executives have already outlined plans for a wide-ranging restructuring of its operations in Europe, which is ultimately likely to affect many thousands of jobs.
The company also operates another engine plant at Dagenham in Essex, as well as a number of other facilities across the UK.
The car manufacturer said in its full-year results announcement this month that profits had more than halved in 2018, largely as a result of losses in China and Europe.