Two Ford truck plants are in the process of slightly upping their production for the balance of the year. The increases were previously announced by Ford as preliminary results from the now ended “Cash for Clunkers” federal rebate program showed sales gains.
The increased production, however welcome, is not the ringing endorsement for the U.S. economy or for manufacturing employment that they might appear to be at first glance. The company continues to pare or restrict the hours of its workforce.
In addition, Ford is forecasting a seasonally adjusted selling rate of between 10 and 11 million vehicles for 2009, down from a dismal 2008, which started out the year at more than 15 million vehicles and then steadily declined to 10 million units by December. All told, 2008 ended with vehicle sales of 13.2 million units, the lowest level since 1992.
As it stands now the Dearborn Truck Plant in Michigan, will resume a three-shift operation in September, to supply F-150 pickups in the U.S. and Canada. The move will result in a return to full-time employment for 2,800 employees who had been working on a two-weeks-on and one-week-off rotating basis since last April.
It’s becoming clear that conventional wisdom about the invincible Japanese is wrong. Toyota and Nissan, not American makers, have been trounced in the pickup truck wars; and have lost billions on their investments in large trucks. Ford, General Motors and, to a lessor degree, Dodge remain the dominate players in this segment, which represents 12% to 15% of the market.
Ford is also establishing three-crew shifts this October at its Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycomo, Missouri. Compact Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner sport utility vehicles are built there.