Ford to cut 900 jobs at Flat Rock assembly plant

February 17, 2010

Ford to cut 900 jobs at Flat Rock assembly plant

Facility will move to a single shift with faster line speed

The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co. will cut 900 workers at its plant in Flat Rock in July but increase production of the Ford Mustang and Mazda6 assembled there on a single shift.

The plant, which employs 2,280, will be reduced to a single shift July 12. The expectation is most workers will be transferred to other Ford plants, said spokeswoman Marcey Evans.

The AutoAlliance International Inc. plant, which is jointly owned by Mazda Motor Corp., assembled about 102,000 cars in 2009, and the forecast is to increase output this year, Evans said, helped by the new 2011 Mustang.

To do so, line speed will be increased about 35 percent, making the operation more efficient.

The plant had a lot of downtime last year as Mustang sales fell 27 percent and Mazda6 sales were off 34 percent.

Reducing Flat Rock to a single shift should provide more stability for the remaining workers, Evans said.

Steady production also is important to maintain quality, said analyst Joe Phillippi of AutoTrends Consulting Inc. in Short Hills, N.J.

"The assembly process, where humans are involved, is pretty much a ballet and is precisely timed," Phillippi said.

Automakers have tried to eliminate the possibility of errors from the process, but "when production is on again and off again people lose their edge and there is potential for quality problems."

Greater efficiency is important to Ford as it competes with General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC, which were able to shed cost and liability during stints in bankruptcy last year.

Some laid-off Ford workers will be absorbed into the automaker’s Chicago assembly plant, which is adding a second shift of 1,200 employees in the third quarter to prepare for the fourth-quarter launch of the all-new Ford Explorer.

Additional workers also will be needed at Michigan Assembly in Wayne this year. The plant had been making the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator full-size SUVs but is being retooled to make the next-generation Ford Focus compact sedan in the fourth quarter.

"We expect the vast majority of employees will be able to go elsewhere and stay with Ford," Evans said.

The warning also gives workers time to contemplate a move, Phillippi said.

Those not offered jobs at other Ford plants will be offered buyouts consistent with the contract.

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