Ford plans to lay off 700 work­ers fol­low­ing slower car sales

The China Post - - WORLD BUSINESS - BY DEE-ANN DURBIN

Ford Mo­tor Co. said Thurs­day it’s lay­ing off 700 work­ers at a Michi­gan as­sem­bly plant be­cause of slow sales of the small cars and hy­brids it makes.

The Michi­gan As­sem­bly Plant, in the Detroit sub­urb of Wayne, will move from three shifts to two start­ing June 22, spokes­woman Kristina Adamski said. The plant, which makes the Ford Fo­cus and C-Max hy­brid, has been op­er­at­ing on three shifts since 2012.

The plant is the same one Pres­i­dent Barack Obama vis­ited in Jan­uary to hail the resur­gent U.S. auto in­dus­try. But even dur­ing that visit, the plant was tem­po­rar­ily shut down to pre­vent over­pro­duc­tion of the slow-sell­ing cars. The plant also makes elec­tric ver­sions of the Fo­cus and C-Max.

It’s the first time since 2009 that Ford has cut a shift at a U.S. plant. Au­tomak­ers have been in growth mode since the re­ces­sion, adding thou­sands of work­ers to meet strong U.S. de­mand for new cars. Ford has added 14,000 work­ers to its U.S. plants over the last four years.

But as an­nual sales near their his­toric peak of 17 mil­lion, au­tomak­ers aren’t go­ing to keep see­ing the same big sales gains they en­joyed com­ing out of the re­ces­sion. Lower gas prices also hurt sales of the fuel-ef­fi­cient Fo­cus and C-Max. Fo­cus sales fell 6 per­cent last year, while C-Max sales dropped 22 per­cent.

Ford says 675 as­sem­bly line work­ers and 25 salaried work­ers are af­fected. They will be laid off in three waves be­tween June and Septem­ber.

Some work­ers will im­me­di­ately trans­fer to other plants to cover sum­mer va­ca­tions. Ford ex­pects most will find jobs at other Michi- gan Ford plants by next spring. One nearby plant is strug­gling to meet de­mand for Ford’s new F-150 pickup. An­other is mak­ing the Ford Mus­tang on two shifts but could in­crease that to three if over­seas de­mand for the Mus­tang is strong.

Jimmy Set­tles, who leads Ford ne­go­ti­a­tions for the United Auto Work­ers union, said the shift re­duc­tion was un­for­tu­nate but not un­ex­pected.

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