The U.S. auto market is booming. As of April 30, automakers had sold more than 4.6 million vehicles -- a 10.3% increase over the previous year.
Like many car companies, Ford is working overtime to keep pace with demand. Ford's sales are running nearly 5% above 2011, fueled largely by the outstanding Ford Focus (our 2012 Best Car to Buy).
In fact, if you look at the top 20 models sold in America today, the Focus leads the pack -- at least in terms of overall growth. In year-to-date sales, the Focus is up a whopping 57.3% over 2011. That growth rate outpaces even the Toyota Prius (55.7%), which was in short supply during parts of 2011 due to natural disasters affecting Japan and Thailand.
Not surprisingly, Ford has announced plans to boost its annual production by 400,000 units. According to Jim Tetreault, Ford's vice president of North America Manufacturing, "We are working most of our North America plants at maximum capacity and we are adding production shifts in three of our assembly plants this month alone."
But adding shifts and increasing efficiency can't get Ford all the way to its goal. And so, the company has decided to scale back downtime at 13 of its North American plants this summer. Instead of idling for the usual two weeks, those facilities will now be shuttered for one week.
Affected plants include Chicago Assembly, Chicago Stamping, Cleveland Engine No. 1, Dearborn Engine, Dearborn Truck, Essex Engine, Kentucky Truck, Lima Engine, Louisville Assembly, Michigan Assembly, Kansas City Assembly, Rawsonville, and Sterling.
The cutback in idle time will add 40,000 vehicles to the company's inventory, moving Ford 10% closer to its annual goal.