Ford boosts pickup, SUV production, cuts car output
Ford Escape crossovers move down the assembly line at Ford's Louisville Assembly Plant. The plant will go to two shifts from three, and workers will transfer to another Ford plant in Louisville.
Courtesy of Ford Motor Co.

Ford boosts pickup, SUV production, cuts car output

Workers in Kentucky and Michigan will move from one Ford facility to another as the automaker rebalances its portfolio to boost production of high-profit large vehicles.

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November 29, 2018
By Robert Schoenberger

Cleveland, Ohio – Ford Motor Co. is shifting more production from cars to sport utility vehicles (SUVs), but unlike General Motors’ announcement Monday, the Ford shift shouldn’t cost any jobs.

Ford officials told workers that it would end a 650-job production shift at its Flat Rock, Michigan, plant because sales of Mustang muscle cars and Lincoln Continental luxury cars have fallen, making Flat Rock a one-shift plant. And it will end a 500-job shift at its Louisville Assembly Plant (LAP) in Kentucky in response to softening sales of the aging Escape crossover. LAP will go to two shifts from three.

In both cases, workers will be offered transfers to plants that need help producing trucks and SUVs. The Flat Rock workers will transfer to about 30 miles north to Livonia Transmission in Michigan, a plant that makes transmissions for F-Series pickups and the upcoming Ranger pickup.

The LAP employees will move across town, about 30 miles east to the Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville to help boost demand of the Expedition pickup and F-Series Super Duty truck line.

United Auto Workers Vice President Rory Gamble said, “Our collectively bargained contract provides for the placement of all members displaced by the shift reduction and, after working with Ford, we are confident that all impacted employees will have the opportunity to work at nearby facilities. The UAW will be working with our members to ensure they have continuous work and help minimize, as much as possible, any hardship on members and their families.”

As with GM’s announcement Monday that it was closing car plants, the driver is the same – Americans have soured on cars as their appetites for larger vehicles have grown. The Escape had been benefitting from that trend, requiring three shifts for the past few years, but it’s now a vehicle in need of an update.

Ford’s shift from cars to larger vehicles, announced early this year, has draw less criticism from politicians than GM’s announcement Monday – primarily because Ford has shifted most car production to Mexico in recent years and added trucks and SUVs to the United States.

Its Michigan Assembly Plant in Warren, for example, ended production on the Focus about a year ago so Ford could retool it to produce the Ranger pickup and Bronco SUV.

Other than the Mustang and Continental, Ford’s only car made in the U.S. or Canada is the Taurus sedan, made in Chicago. The automaker plans to end Taurus production within the next few years, but that plant also makes the successful Explorer SUV.

About the author: Robert Schoenberger is the editor of Today's Motor Vehicles and a contributor to Today's Medical Developments and Aerospace Manufacturing and Design. He has written about the automotive industry for more than 18 years at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio; The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky; and The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi.

rschoenberger@gie.net