Ford Motor Co.'s nearly 50,000 U.S. hourly workers — including 22,500 in Michigan — will get smaller profit-sharing checks because of lower North American profits last year.

Checks will average $6,900 and will be cut March 12, the Dearborn automaker said Thursday. Last year, Ford workers got a record $8,800.

Ford's profit-sharing checks are calculated by a formula that rewards each hourly worker $1 for every $1 million earned in North America. The formula was developed as part of contract negotiations between Detroit's automakers and the United Auto Workers in 2011. Individual check amounts are based on number of hours worked; it could be more or less than $6,900.

Moe Elhady, a team leader in the body shop at Ford's Flat Rock Assembly Plant, said he's excited.

"It's always a good bonus to have," he said. "It's something to show we're appreciated. It's less than last year, but it's still a good thing."

The 37-year-old Canton resident said he's come to expect the check each year since the industry has bounced back from the recession. Ford didn't offer profit sharing from 2005 to 2008.

Elhady said he'll roll most of it into his 401(k). "Not everybody does that, but it's the smartest thing to do," he said.

And what about the rest of the money? "I have a wife and three kids; they have plans for it," he joked.

FCA US LLC reports earnings Feb. 3. Last year, Chrysler workers received up to $2,500 in profit sharing (with another $1,000 if plant targets were met). Checks are expected to be about even with last year, or possibly a bit larger.

General Motors Co. reports earnings Feb. 4. Employees last year received up to $7,500 in profit sharing. Checks are expected to be at least $1,000 lighter this year.

Ford reported Thursday it made $6.9 billion in North America last year, down from $8.8 billion last year thanks to lower volume associated with a record number of product launches.

The smaller check doesn't upset Bradley Wampler, who works at Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant and is a union rep for UAW Local 900.

"I don't see how you could be disappointed," he said. "It's a bonus; it opens up opportunities."

Wampler, a 42-year-old Belleville resident, said he'll be practical: Some will be saved, some will be used to pay bills, and some will be spent on continuing his education. "I was in college years ago and have always wanted to finish up," he said.

Tony Gazzarato, a 39-year-old orientation coordinator and safety trainer at Dearborn Truck, said he plans to spend his check on his two-story colonial in Livonia. He plans to do remodeling, including new windows.

"No matter what the number is, I'm excited," he said. "I never take anything for granted.

Ford said next year's checks should be bigger.

"We're saying North America will have improved profits in 2015. That would mean improved profit sharing," Ford Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks said in an interview.

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