Update: Ford is currently working on a new family of compact three-cylinder engines - currently referred to as the ‘Fox’ family – and is planning to start full scale production of the new powerplants as early as next year. Designed primarily for the European market, as well as emerging markets such as India and China, the Fox engines will be built at the carmaker’s Craiova plant in Romania, with production numbers expected to reach 700,000 units annually.

The decision to build the engines in Romania has come as a blow to the 1,200 odd staff at the current Cologne engine factory. The German site is responsible for about 200,000 V6 engines destined for the Mustang, Ranger and Explorer SUV, as well as a limited number of V8 and V12 engines for Aston Martin. Contracts for all three engines are expected to be phased out in a couple of years and unless a new deal is secured the plant will be shut down or sold, reports Automotive News. At full capacity, the Cologne plant can build up to 560,000 engines per year.

Key rival General Motors is also working on a new family of compact engines, the first of which will appear in the upcoming Chevrolet Cruze sedan. The new engine lineup is called ‘Family Zero’ and will offer both three and four-cylinder units in either naturally aspirated or turbocharged form.

Original: Workers at Ford’s engine plant in Cologne, Germany, could face losing their jobs unless the plant starts building a new fuel-efficient three-cylinder engine, warned Ford of Europe’s union boss Dieter Hinkelmann. The Cologne plant builds roughly 200,000 V6 engines each year for Ford’s North American SUVs as well as a small number of V8 and V12 engines for Aston Martin, but there’s capacity in place to build up to 560,000 engines per year.

Speaking with Automotive News Europe, Ford’s European boss John Fleming told reporters that the new engine plant in Craiova, Romania, will likely be used for the new engine and that a final decision would be made by the end of the year. Hinkelmann believes that the Craiova plant isn’t set up to build a newly designed engine - Ford only bought the plant last year from Daewoo.

Ford is not the only major carmaker looking to compact yet powerful three-cylinder engines to combat tough new fuel-economy and emissions regulations in both the U.S. and Europe. Both Volkswagen and PSA Peugeot-Citroen Group have announced plans to develop three-cylinder engines with turbocharging technology, and Japanese carmakers have been using the compact mills for years in their ‘kei’ city cars.