Shortage of microchips compounds shutdowns at Ford engine plants
The troubles created by the global microchip shortage are spreading, with both of Ford Motor Company's Windsor engine plants being affected for the first time.
Until now the Windsor Annex Engine Plant had avoided any shutdowns, but Ford informed Unifor Local 200 Thursday the facility would be idled April 26 and 27 and for the entire week of May 3.
The Essex Engine has had shutdowns added for May 3 and the entire week beginning May 10.
The plant is also scheduled to be down Friday and the week of April 26 having already been shut down four previous days in April.
“Chips continue to be the problem and the company is playing a balancing game,” said Local 200 president John D'agnolo.
“As a shipment of chips comes in, they're deciding where they'll go on a weekly and daily basis. When they get a shipment in, depending on the product, they'll just start up a plant.”
Essex Engine, which employs about 850 workers, produces five-litre engines used in F-150 pickups and the Mustang.
The Annex plant, which has about the same number of workers, produces the 7.3-litre engines used in Ford's heavier duty pickup trucks.
The additional shutdowns are the result of several of the facilities the Windsor plants supply remaining off-line.
Ford announced Wednesday that its plants in Chicago, Dearborn, Kansas City and Flat Rock, Mich., would be idled the weeks beginning May 3 and 10.
The Ohio assembly plant will be limited to producing medium-heavy duty trucks and the super-duty chassis cabs during those weeks.
Ford had previously announced its Kentucky complex would be down April 26 and May 3.
Ford's other Ontario production facility in Oakville, which has been idled since April 19, also had its shutdown extended the week beginning May 3.
The Oakville shutdown will impact three local suppliers to the plant, which produces the Ford Edge and Lincoln Nautilus.
D'agnolo said the company had originally been focusing on supplying plants that produced their top-selling F-series pickups, but that isn't a viable long-term strategy with the chip shortage dragging on.
“We're sold out of Broncos for the year,” D'agnolo said. “People want their vehicles, so you can't put everything into trucks. You can't lose something that's already sold. That's the balancing act.”
D'agnolo said the losses piling up for the auto industry are substantial.
It's estimated automakers worldwide will lose two to three million vehicles sales this year due to the chip shortage.
“I'm concerned about the longevity of this shortage,” D'agnolo said. “We're going to lose customers. Sometimes when you lose one, you lose them forever.”
D'agnolo added he's had discussions with senior Ford management and government officials pointing out more than microchips needs addressing when it comes to supply chains.
He said other commodities, such as critical minerals for electric vehicles, and turbulent geopolitical issues, also pose potential problems dictating the need for reshoring.
“The company really needs to do a deep dive on this,” D'agnolo said. “Ford told us even the ship stuck in the Suez Canal affected the company. We've put ourselves in a position, with globalization, where countries can cripple our organization because they control critical parts or resources.
“Companies have no power. We've given control of our companies to countries like China, which answers to no one.”