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Ford to temporarily halt F-150 production at Claycomo next week

The new 2016 Ford F-150 MVP limited edition pickup truck rolled in March at the Ford Kansas City Assembly plant at Claycomo. The plant made only 300 of the trucks in honor of the Kansas City Royals 2015 World Championship.
The new 2016 Ford F-150 MVP limited edition pickup truck rolled in March at the Ford Kansas City Assembly plant at Claycomo. The plant made only 300 of the trucks in honor of the Kansas City Royals 2015 World Championship. The Kansas City Star

Ford Motor Co. will temporarily halt production of its top-selling F-150 pickup at its Claycomo plant next week as it deals with slower consumer demand.

The announcement was one of several moves being made by Ford to match production of several of its products with demand that has weakened in the second half of the year compared with a year ago.

This week, Ford is is shutting down its Louisville, Ky., factory building the Escape and Lincoln MKC sport utility vehicles, as well as two plants in Mexico that make the Fusion sedan and Fiesta subcompact, the company announced in the statement. Production of the Super Duty truck at the Kentucky Truck Plant, also in Louisville, will not be interrupted.

Next week, Ford will close the F-150 line at Claycomo for seven days. And starting Oct. 31, the Louisville plant will be idled for another week, Ford said.

“This is a temporary layoff for an adjustment,” UAW Local 249 president Eric Hall said of the Claycomo F-150 halt. “All of our full time members have a return date.”

The F-150 is one of two products built at Claycomo; the plant also builds the Transit cargo van, which has enjoyed strong sales so far this year. Ford employs about 7,500 hourly workers at Claycomo, with three F-150 shifts and two Transit shifts. About 3,100 work on the Transit shifts.

Transit production had been halted during the last week of September. Though Transit sales have been strong this year, they advanced at a slower pace in September.

“It’s the same reason” for Transit and F-150 production halts, Kelli Felker, manufacturing and labor communications manager, said in an email Tuesday. “We continue matching production with demand to ensure we are at our targeted inventories by year end.”

Ford had said earlier this year that it anticipated a slower second half in the truck industry.

“We also said to expect to see some production adjustments in the second half — and this is one of them,” Felker said.

The plant closings follow last week's idling of Ford's Mustang factory in Michigan after sales of the sports car plunged 32 percent in September. U.S. auto sales are slowing as many analysts predict the industry won't match last year's record of 17.5 million cars and light trucks.

The temporary shutdowns do not change Ford's guidance to investors that it expects pretax profits of about $10.2 billion this year, Bob Shanks, chief financial officer, told Bloomberg News.

“What we're doing here with these plants and these product lines is adjusting to demand,” Shanks said. “We're just at the more mature part of the cycle and while we still see strong demand, we do think we'll start to see some softening.”

F-series sales fell 2.6 percent last month, though remain up 5.5 percent this year, as a pickup price war heated up. Escape sales dropped 12 percent in September as Ford faced competitive pressure from the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V. Fusion sales plunged 18 percent and Fiesta was off 40 percent as car sales continue to languish with low fuel prices pushing buyers into trucks and SUVs.

Ford is trying to match production with demand. Inventories have been swelling on the models the automaker is idling. The company had 93 days supply of F-series pickups, which includes the F-150, at the end of September, up from 83 days a year earlier, according to researcher Autodata Corp.

Bloomberg News contributed to this story.

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