Ford will move production of Focus, C-Max out of US

Article by Andrew Christian, on July 10, 2015

Production of Ford Motor’s Focus and C-Max at its Michigan assembly plant will end in 2018, implying that the company expects the demand for small cars to continue to be slow. The automaker didn’t say if assembly will be shifted elsewhere or what vehicles will replace them at this plant, which has a 4,000-member workforce.

The Focus and C-Max are both due to be redesigned for 2018. In a statement, Ford said that the company is “actively pursuing” which models will replace these models at Michigan. This issue will be included in the negotiations that will start on July 23 with UAW leaders.

UAW leadership wrote a letter that they posted on Facebook for their members, saying how “extremely confident” they were that the plant will keep a full production schedule and that new products will be assigned soon. A few weeks ago, Ford had ended the third shift at the plant and around 700 jobs were cut.

In an e-mail, Ford spokeswoman Kristina Adamski wrote that the company is presently looking at several options and assured everyone that an announcement will be made as soon as this process is completed. Presently, Ford produces the Focus on four continents for a total of nine plants, two of which are in China.

The Focus was the No. 1 nameplate in the world with sales of almost 1.1 million. Michigan Assembly has considerable excess capacity so it’s probable that they’re moving overseas, with Mexico being a possibility. According to an Automotive News report, sources say that the Fiesta (Ford’s smallest car) will move to Thailand in 2017, from Cuautitlan, Mexico.

This means that the Focus may be produced at the Mexico plant. The Detroit News and Bloomberg both spoke to union members, who divulged that the assembly will transfer to a foreign country. However, a few UAW members have commented that Ford’s announcement is simply “scare tactics” before negotiation begins.

Converting the former Michigan Truck Plant into the modern and flexible Michigan Assembly cost the company $550 million. This plant was at the center of the “small-car offensive” that former CEO Alan Mulally announced after SUV sales fell. The $5.9 billion loan from a U.S. Energy Department fund had covered the cost to renovate the plant.

This fund was intended to encourage the production of vehicles that offered higher fuel efficiency. In a statement in May 2009, Mulally said that the Michigan plant’s “transformation” is a reflection of the bigger transformation that Ford was undergoing right now.

He explained that Ford is focused on making investments in production that’s modern, flexible and efficient as well as on improving fuel economy and vehicle electrification. He said that the company is leveraging its expertise and vehicle platforms worldwide as well as teaming up with the UAW to produce global small cars that are the best in their class.

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