An official announcement wasn’t expected until later in the year, but Ford Motor Co. was forced to confirm plans to close two truck plants when union officials leaked details to the press on Thursday. Despite the decision to close assembly lines in
The official announcement wasn’t expected for weeks, perhaps even months, but union officials in the
The announcement was not entirely unexpected. Back in January, as part of its Way Forward turnaround plan, Fields revealed that the number-three automaker needed to close 14 parts and assembly lines by 2012. At the time, it identified only three targeted assembly lines, and said two more would be announced before the end of this year. Both
“This is a very difficult decision for all of us,” Fields asserted, during a telephone news conference, “but also a very necessary action needed to restore our North American operations to profitability by 2008.”
The big surprise was the planned closure of
Asked whether the closure might mean a cutback in F-Series volume, Fields quickly countered that “We are reducing the number of plants, not F-Series capacity.” Stevens echoed that point, stressing that increased productivity should allow the losses from
The demise of Twin Cities, on the other hand, was hardly a surprise, considering it was on the shortlist of most industry analysts, who pointed to steadily declining demand for the aged Ranger. During the news conference, Ford officials hinted that a new version of the pickup would likely come after Twin Cities closes, but it would be squeezed into another, more flexible plant in the Ford system.
Analyst Joe Phillippi noted that the earliest version of Ford’s Explorer SUV was derived from the Ranger, adding that with Ford’s newfound focus on flexible manufacturing, the next Ranger, “will go the other way,” and be based on the Explorer.
Flexible manufacturing means that a carmaker like Ford can produce a variety of different models on the same assembly line, shifting the production mix according to market demand. That has been a hallmark for the best Japanese makers, such as
While Ford watchers continue to wait for word on the other planned plant closings, Fields will have more positive news to reveal. The automaker is looking at its options for a new “low-cost” manufacturing facility in