Ford plans a 13-week downtime at F-150-producing sites to prepare for aluminum version

Article by Christian Andrei, on January 30, 2014

Ford Motor Co. is planning a 13-week downtime at its sites building the F-150 to retool them as the carmaker gets ready to roll out the next generation of the pickup. According to Ford, the Dearborn Truck Plant in Michigan will have a downtime of 11 weeks while its facility near Kansas City, Mo, will stop production for 2 weeks.

The figures cover the traditional summer shutdown for both plants. Ford’s management of the 2015 F-150 rollout and customers’ reaction to the truck's lighter yet more expensive aluminum body are expected to affect the carmaker’s profits in 2014 as the F series accounted for 31 percent of its 2013 light-vehicle sales in the US.

Morgan Stanley estimates that the F series accounts for around 90 percent of Ford's global profits. "We see '14 profit pressure from extended truck production downtime for the transition to the new aluminum F-150 pickup truck and increased sales of smaller vehicles that have narrower margins," Efraim Levy, an analyst with S&P Capital IQ, has written.

Ford officials expect the carmaker to post lesser profit in North America this year than in 2013, when it logged a record income of $8.8 billion. They also expect its operating margins to be between 8 percent and 9 percent, compared with 9.9 percent in 2013. Ford chief financial officer Bob Shanks said that the drops are "largely attributable to F series," Shanks and Ford chief operating officer Mark Fields remarked that they are confident that inventories will be enough to meet demand throughout 2014.

"We have a lot of experience with this," Fields said. According to Buckingham Research Group analyst Joseph Amaturo, the longer downtime for the F-150 launch could cut Ford's pretax profit in North America by $800 million this year.

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