Snorkel’s Parent to Collaborate with Ford

The Tanfield Group Plc, parent of Snorkel International, saw a boost in its share price after it reported this week it is collaborating with Ford Motor Co. on electric vehicle development. Tanfield will work with Ford to introduce a battery-powered electric light van for the North American market.

Tanfield will be wholly responsible for supplying and integrating the power train, battery pack, and control systems into the existing vehicle chassis envelope, with engineering support from Ford. A limited number of electric Ford Transit Connect vehicles will be manufactured in North America during 2010, with future production to ramp up in line with customer demand. The vehicles will be fully branded as a Ford product and sold through select Ford dealerships.

The news comes a few days after Tanfield Group reported it had experienced poorer market conditions in the second half of 2008. The group had a number of loss-making months before the impact of cost cutting restored it to a break-even position on a monthly basis, before exceptional restructuring costs.

“We were however still able to grow the group year on year, with revenues of £146.5 million ($208.7 million),” the company said in a statement. “With many customers holding onto their own cash, our year end position was £11.1 million ($15.6 million), with £8.0 million ($11.4 million) being collected in the weeks following the year end. Cash balances at the end of January 2009, traditionally a low point, were £13.1 million ($18.7 million).”

Tanfield said it continues to maintain tight control on overheads and review its cost base. It expects to see a contraction in 2009, compared to 2008. Adverse trading conditions and the ongoing unavailability of credit for its customers continue to impact business.

“Market conditions in the USA are particularly challenging,” Tanfield said in a statement. “We are instigating temporary production suspensions in North America, on an as-needed basis, to continue to match output to demand. However, as always, customer service remains our number one priority, and all customer-facing operations will carry on as normal.”

Tanfield notes it is debt-free without banking covenants or interest costs and does not anticipate this changing in the short to mid-term. “The group is therefore well-positioned to continue to ride out this downturn until eventual market recovery,” the company said.