Ford schedules downtime at 5 N.A. assembly plants amid slowing sales

on Sep20

The Kansas City production line for the Transit will be down for two weeks. The Transit’s U.S. sales fell 21 percent to 80,292 units through the first eight months of the year.

UPDATED: 9/19/17 3:53 pm ET – adds details

DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. will temporarily shut down production lines at five assembly plants in North America before the end of the year to fix recalled commercial vans and reduce output of slow-selling cars.

Both of Ford’s Mexico plants are affected. Cuautitlan Assembly Plant, which makes the Fiesta sedan, will be down for three weeks. Hermosillo Assembly Plant, which makes the Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ sedans, will be down for two weeks.

In the U.S., Flat Rock Assembly Plant, which builds the Ford Mustang sports car and Lincoln Continental sedan, will be down for two weeks. Kansas City Assembly Plant’s Transit line will be down for two weeks. Michigan Assembly Plant, which makes the Focus sedan and C-Max hatchback, will be down for one week.

“We are continuing to match production with customer demand, as we always do, and we are on track for our dealer inventories to remain at planned levels by year-end,” a Ford spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.

In the case of the three U.S. plants, UAW workers will be placed on temporary layoff and will receive about 80 percent of their regular take-home pay. Collectively, the five plants employ more than 20,000 people, according to Ford’s website.

Ford did not provide any specific dates for the downtime, although the first week off for Kansas City workers will be Sept. 25 to Oct. 1, according to UAW Local 249, which represents them. The F-150 line at the plant is unaffected.

The Transit is the best-selling large van in the country, but Ford in June said it was recalling 402,462 vans — costing the company $142 million — because of a faulty driveshaft flexible coupling.

The defect could lead to the separation of the driveshaft, which could result in a loss of power, unintended vehicle movement and damage to brake and fuel lines.

The Transit is still outpacing competition that includes the Chevrolet Express, GMC Savana, Ram Promaster, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and Nissan NV. But sales fell 15 percent last month and are down 21 percent to 80,292 units through the first eight months of the year, according to the Automotive News Data Center. Retail sales are up, but fleet sales have fallen.

In all other cases, the plants to be idled produce slow-selling cars.

Ford CFO Bob Shanks early this year told analysts “don’t be surprised” if Ford trims vehicle inventory to avoid a glut of unsold vehicles on dealer lots.

Ford had an 81-day supply of vehicles as of Sept. 1, up from 77 a month earlier.

Ford Motor’s total sales are down 4 percent through the first eight months of the year, slightly outpacing the industry’s overall sales decline of 2.7 percent.

The Ford brand’s car sales are down 20 percent, while overall U.S. car sales have fallen 12 percent. 

Ford’s truck sales are up 2 percent while total U.S. truck sales have risen 3.6 percent. 

Ford Motor has also lost one tenth of one percentage point of market share so far this year, to 15.1 percent.

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