Ford to resume F-150 production

Nora Naughton
The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co. expects its F-150 production will be in full swing again by Monday after a fire at a supplier plant brought production of the crucial truck to a standstill last week.

Ford will resume some F-150 production Friday at the Dearborn Truck Plant, with Kansas City expected to follow on Monday.

The Dearborn automaker shuttered its Kansas City plant quickly after the May 2 fire explosion and fire at Meridian Magnesium Products in Eaton Rapids. The Dearborn Truck Plant followed on May 9, stopping all F-150 and Super Duty production.

One of the three crews at Dearborn will return to work Friday, said Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of global operations. The other two crews will start returning to work between Saturday and Monday. Kansas City employees are being called back to work Monday.

Super Duty production at the Kentucky Truck Plant, which has been halted since last week, will also resume Monday.

Hinrichs declined to disclose how far behind Ford has fallen on F-Series production until the situation is completely ratified: “The situation is still changing hour by hour.”

The fire at Meridian sent ripple effects throughout the industry last week. The break in the supply chain also affected Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, General Motors Co., BMW and Mercedes-Benz, all of which halted or adjusted production of some vehicles in the U.S. and Canada last week. Among the vehicles affected are the Chrysler Pacifica minivan and GMC Savana and Chevrolet Express full-size vans.

But Ford felt the effects of the fire most acutely because it impacted production of its profit-rich F-150 pickup. The Dearborn automaker said it was the first to enter the plant, which was still smoldering when teams went in to assess the damage to necessary tools.

Ford has spent the last week working with Meridian and other suppliers in what Hau Thai-Tang, Ford’s executive vice president of product development and purchasing, called a “Herculean effort” to restore F-150 production over the past week. That included recovering 19 of its tools from Meridian’s damaged facility in Eaton Rapids in order to either repair or relocate them to Meridian’s facility in Nottingham, U.K.

In one case, that required air-lifting an 87,000-pound tool from Eaton Rapids to Nottingham in just 30 hours. Some work has also resumed at Eaton Rapids.

Ford did not disclose the cost of these efforts to restore F-150 production, but said it expects downtime and operating costs associated with restoring production to adversely affect second quarter profits by between 12 and 14 cents per share.

The company said Wednesday it had 84 days’ supply of the trucks, which was expected to keep sales up amid lost production. Ford expects the downtime to affect second-quarter profits, but kept its full-year guidance.

Meridian Magnesium Products, touted on the company website as the world’s largest supplier of magnesium die-cast components, is a unit of China’s Wanfeng Auto Holdings Group Co. Ltd. A Meridian representative did not respond to a Detroit News request for comment.