Unsold 2008 Super Duty pick-up trucks at a Ford dealership in the south Denver suburb of Littleton, Colo, on Sunday, May 11. Ford Motor Company on Thursday, May 22, said it was cutting North American production of pick-ups and SUVs as car buyers eyeing record gas prices turn towards more fuel-efficient models.- ap
Ford Motor Company said it would further cut production of its pick-ups and large sport utility vehicles, which have seen sales plummet due to high gas prices and the slump in housing construction.
The company, anxious to hold on to its longtime lead in United States pick-up sales, also is working on a smaller, more fuel- efficient version of its best-selling F-150 pick-up that will likely hit the market in 2011, according to people who have been briefed on the company's plans.
Ford spokeswoman Angie Kozleski confirmed that the Michigan Truck plant in suburban Wayne would be shut down for five weeks starting in late June. The plant makes the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator large SUVs, both of which have seen double-digit sales drops so far this year.
In addition, two people familiar with Ford's production plans say the Kentucky Truck plant in Louisville will be shut down for four weeks in July. The persons did not want to be identified because the company has not made its plans public. The Louisville plant makes the company's F-Series Super Duty pick-up trucks.
one-week shift layoffs
Kozleski wouldn't confirm the Kentucky Truck closure, but said the plant would see one-week shift lay-offs by department on a rotating basis through the month of May. Those changes and the changes at Michigan Truck are due to decreased demand for vehicles made at the plants, she said.
"What we're looking at is how you continue to align your capacity with demand," she said.
Auto companies normally shut their United States plants down for two weeks in July to retool for the next model year. These closures will extend the regular shutdowns.
Ford said in March that it had planned to cut North American production by 10 per cent in the second quarter because of slow US sales, but the production cuts at Michigan Truck and Kentucky Truck would come on top of that. Kozleski wouldn't say whether there are further production cuts planned.
United States sales of full-size pick-ups peaked in 2004 at 2.5 million vehicles, but have dropped ever since as gas prices climbed and the slowing housing market pinched sales of work vehicles. The F-series trucks remain the best-selling vehicles in the US, but sales were off 16 per cent in the first four months of this year.
Under pressure to make its trucks more fuel efficient, Ford is planning to build a smaller pick-up on a modified version of the F-150 platform, according to persons who have been briefed on the company's plans. They asked not to be named because the plans were not yet public.
The truck would use lighter-weight materials such as aluminium and thinner, high-strength steel and would be about the size of the Ford Ranger compact pick-up. Instead of a V-8, the truck would likely have a six-cylinder engine with some extra kick from Ford's EcoBoost technology, which uses turbo-charging and direct-injection to improve performance and fuel economy.
The truck would be built at the Michigan Truck plant in Wayne. Ford is considering resurrecting the F-100 name, which was used for entry-level F-series pick-ups until 1983 when Ford introduced the Ranger.
The US version of the Ranger is still being made, but production is expected to end next year when Ford closes the St Paul, Minnesota plant that makes the Ranger. Ford is considering bringing a global version of the Ranger, which is made in Thailand, to the US market in addition to the F-100 depending on gas prices, according to one of the sources. The global Ranger is slightly smaller than the US Ranger.
Ford spokeswoman Becky Sanch said she could not comment on the company's plans.