By on December 14, 2018

Image: Ford

The decision to ditch all passenger cars save for the Mustang didn’t lead to immediate pain among Ford’s American workforce, but it soon will. As the automaker’s restructuring plan has only just begun, Ford found itself spared from the kind of vitriol flung at rival General Motors, which recently outlined a workforce reduction of up to 15,000 employees.

But pain is coming — to Ford’s Van Dyke transmission plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan. Unlike the Midwestern workforce switcheroo that followed shift cuts at two plants last month, it doesn’t look like every worker will find a new home this time.

(Ed. note — Ford has reached out to confirm that all effected employees will find a new work home. Here, in full, is their statement: “As we continue to rebalance our production to match capacity with customer demand, we are planning a reduction of approximately 230 jobs at Van Dyke Transmission Plant in the first quarter of 2019. All full-time hourly employees affected will be offered jobs at another Ford plant.”).

As reported by Wards Auto, Ford has told UAW Local 228 that cuts totalling 230 workers would begin at the suburban Detroit plant in March in order to “rebalance our production to match capacity with customer demand.”

The plant employs some 1,500 workers tasked with building transmissions for a number of vehicles, some of which have the misfortune of being cars. Specifically, the Focus, which departed Michigan Assembly last spring after Ford shifted future assembly to Mexico, then China, before discontinuing the model altogether in North America. The now-extinct C-Max hybrid also sourced its tranny from Van Dyke, as does the Fusion sedan, which received its death notice earlier this year. That model is expected to hang around in some form until 2021.

Responding to the automaker’s notice, UAW 228 said workers with seniority will be able to transfer to positions at Ford’s nearby axle plant. Meanwhile, the automaker offered to transfer workers to whatever positions exist at its Romeo, Michigan and Lima, Ohio engine plants, as well as Chicago Assembly. The available positions likely won’t total 230.

Last month, Ford cut shifts at its Louisville and Flat Rock assembly plants, though displaced workers were told they could move to the nearby Kentucky truck plant and Livonia transmission plant, with no jobs lost.

While it’s true Ford handed the Focus and C-Max a cigarette and blindfold before making its big car cull announcement, the product shift is nonetheless altering the company’s manufacturing landscape. The Fiesta, also doomed in 2019, is made in Mexico, preventing it from generating negative headlines in the United States. Workers currently building the Taurus in Chicago will likely all switch to building the 2020 Explorer and Lincoln Aviator when the aging sedan ceases production next March.

The Fusion and Lincoln MKZ, of course, hail from Mexico, where their trunks often gain lucrative cargo before crossing the border into the U.S.

A big massive shoe that’s yet to drop concerns Ford’s white-collar workforce, which numbers around 70,000 on a global scale. Part of Ford’s $11 billion restructuring involves a reduction in salaried employees. How many, exactly, isn’t yet known, and Ford’s refusing to speculate on a number, but Morgan Stanley suggests the figure could be in the neighborhood of 20,000.

[Image: Ford Motor Company]

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23 Comments on “Ford’s Car Cull Decision Spills Over to Michigan Workers [Updated]...”


  • avatar

    Welcome to Hollywood~

  • avatar
    jatz

    “The decision to ditch all passenger cars save for the Mustang”

    Worthy of HuffPo or Breitbart unless only sedans and hatchbacks are “passenger cars”.

  • avatar
    Sidchrome

    Management at Ford must be sitting very high up indeed. To be so out of touch with the person on the street and their wants is an indictment to the management structure and attitude at Ford. I was born with my blood pulsing Ford blue, like a lot of children to average working Australians. I have witnessed locally and internationally Ford continue to live in the past and fail to respond to changes in market conditions until it was too late. in the 21st Century, people have a right and expectation that car makers will produce safer reliable and sustainable product of very high quality- even at the bottom of the market. Quality is a no compromise requirement for the first world 21st century buyer. Here in Australia Ford, General Motors, and Toyota have recently closed all of their manufacturing plants forever. All gone! Component suppliers are the biggest collective employers, and some have restructured to produce new products, export biased product, or they too have closed. So why and why are Ford Sales so slow except for Ranger and Mustang? It’s both complex and simple really. Some examples. Fusion is sold here as Mondeo. Sensibly, we get the European version which although it looks identical to the North American car from outside, is a hatch back, not a sedan. It has SUV type carrying space, with sedan styling, dynamics, safety, economy, and comfort that an SUV cannot match. So with so much to offer it would be a top seller obviously. But no, and Ford’s advertising budget for this car must be about zero. Never seen an ad on TV, in print, on radio, or on the Web even, not even Youtube or Google. Most people have no idea how good this car is, and Ford whisper its potential to the public. Then there is the dry clutch Powershift fiasco. Ford did a number of owners “over” to get out of owning a car with a crap transmission. Part of the issue is our weak consumer laws which effective anti-lemon lacked effective anti-lemon clauses. However a responsible manufacturer/dealer would do the right thing by the customer and itself by throwing whatever resources were needed to fix these issues at the problem. Not Ford, they jerked people around and you can Google Ford Powershift and Focus in AU and read the stories from a plethora of miserable customers. When the Australian ANCAP (New Car Assessment Program) started using the European NCAP test results instead of testing similar models here as well to save money, the goalposts for testing changed overnight. Mustang recorded and unacceptable 2 stars out of 5 for the Euro test due to the lack of active crash avoidance gear, and some fairly unimpressive airbag results for front seat and woeful rear seat numbers that would affect children carried in the back. A responsible maker would apologise, and get to work to resolve these things with gusto. This is after-all the duck that lays the golden eggs in the Ford car world. But no, Ford just denied there was an issue and made slow non retrospective changes that have now 2 years on resulted in a star rating of 3. Do yoy think that hurts US export sales? Damn right it does. When it was discovered that the exhaust or heat shield on some Ranger models acts as a leaf catcher and can cause fires, Ford immediately developed a retrofit mod to the heat shield to fix the problem for both new and existing vehicles – right? No, they did nothing. Fortunately for Ford, this problem is not common knowledge so sales remain relatively unchanged. It’s not the problems that are the problems, it’s the solutions or lack of them that is the problem. It’s about the attitude to the customers. It’s about the way dealers treat customers. Arrogance and complacency are killing American manufacturing around the world. They are not alone of course. The halo at VW group slipped oh so severely with diesel-gate. When Daimler-Benz tested the first of the first generation of A-Class they thought it great! Then two journalists in Sweden on early Press testing conducted the “elk test”, which all Swedish cars have to pass, and the car rolled to everyone’s shock. Applying the Ford principle MB would have denied the incident, criticised the journalists, and defended the car. What MB did was take a PR disaster and turn it around. They admitted full culpability, fitted the top model dynamic stability control across the whole range, and retrofitted DSC to the cars they had already built. The modified cars passed the elk test OK. DSC became standard and MB got back the costs in positive PR. That is advertising that money can’t buy. Do you see a much smaller company like BMW getting out of car production to focus on SUVs? Ford will need to do what it needs to do to become customer focused, understand that cars need to be engineered for sales everywhere not just the USA, and give the customers what they want. The risk of doing what they are proposing is that Ford will lack agility if market conditions suddenly swing a different way. It takes the same resources to make a Focus as it does a BMW 1 series or Volkswagen Golf. Engineer the damn thing really well, we know Ford has the worldwide engineering resources to it, build a high quality product that is smart, market it through dealers who uphold customer service as number one goal, and people will buy them by the million- specially if hey are marketed correctly. My goodness Ford used to be the masters of marketing. How has the corporate part of Ford led the company to this position? Here, there and everywhere else. In the UK, they used to see British Fords as f they were British. Such loyalty has been lost, but it’s not too late for the company to redeem itself- even now. For those workers in the USA whose jobs are going to go, there are people in Australia who understand what is coming and wish you well.

  • avatar
    thejohnnycanuck

    No one should be surprised by job cut numbers in the tens of thousands. The furniture salesman did exactly the same thing at Steelcase.

    And I also know it shouldn’t surprise me but what doesn’t Ford build in Mexico?

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Almost their entire lineup, except Fiesta, Fusion and MKZ.

      Pesky facts.
      Ikr?!

      • 0 avatar
        brn

        Taurus is built in Chicago (for about five more minutes).

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus

          All of their vehicles except those I mentioned are not built in Mexico.

          If people have a problem only with Ford building in Mexico, I’d like them to name a major (high-volume) automaker that does not have a plant in Mexico.

      • 0 avatar

        I am at the Ford dealer now getting an oil change. About a half hour ago the manager here said to me that they been told not to expect anymore more fusion deliveries after late 2020. I then asked about the MKZ, and he said it will string along a year after the Fusion.

        My car is ready, got to go.

        • 0 avatar
          dusterdude

          @akear I like the Fusion, but even though it’ll still be available for ~ 1 year ,if I was looking for a new sedan now I’m not sure if I’d buy one.. ( as you wonder how high a priority quality is on a vehicle that has been placed on “the chopping block list”.. )

  • avatar
    brn

    “Ford has reached out to confirm that all effected employees”

    The word you’re looking for is affected.

  • avatar

    I almost forgot Ford is in as bad shape as GM.

    Sigh……,

    What is the point.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      “Bad shape” is a relative term. The Profits are still there, just going down:
      2017 4th quarter net income: $2.41 billion
      2018 1st quarter net income: $1.74 billion
      2018 2nd quarter net income: $1.07 billion
      2018 3rd quarter net income: $ 991 million

      There’s a trend there, for Ford as well as GM. Both are trying to get ahead of it before net income becomes net loss. Not only are fewer cars being sold, they have higher costs and lower margins.

      Both makers are cutting them in favor of steady truck and SUV/CUV sales with higher margins. The US car market is still 5 million vehicles, so Ford may be cutting too much too soon.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      The markets have been pretty volitile ever since Trump started conductiing trade negotiations via Twitter insults, and these large car companies can no longer depend on their global supply chain.

      This is intentional.

      Trump and his fans think disrupting international trade will cause reshoring of manudaturing jobs, but what we’re seeing now are car manufacturers culling their low margin products so that further disruptions and volitility won’t cause them to lose money.

      That means less variety and higher prices for American car buyers, just as the economists predicted.

      If this continues for 5-10 years, maybe the entire supply chain can be rebuilt within the US, but the cost is going to be that fewer cars (both in variety and in volume) which will be sold at higher prices.

      That’s a recipe for shrinking the industry and the economy. Neither of those things help the jobs picture. India tried this for decades, and it didn’t work there, and trade isolationism hasn’t helped other nations either.

      But, hey, the Trump fans voted for this. SMH

  • avatar
    arj9084

    When would one expect a slew of new product announcements to fill the post-sedan era @ Ford?

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Ford claims to be working on several plugin vehicles, at least when they try to hire engineers at my local university.

      We can only hope that they have a product onslaught planned.

      But they may also be waiting for more stable exonomic conditions. Yeah, unemployment is low and there was steady growth from 2010-2018 — but the stock indexes have been so volitile lately that they regularly close below where they were in January 2018. If you look at a graph of the S&P 500, you can see right where the trade wars started in January 2018 — the graph changes from steady growth to high volitility. Also, we’re about due for a recession anyway, just baed on the usual exonomic cycle.

      So, big companies with a global outlook and economic advisors probably aren’t betting on a growing economy.

      If I were Ford, I might slow down the product onslaught and wait a bit to invest in new products in order to see what happens next — decades of trade policy has already been upended by a single tweet, and it could easily happen again. Better to play it safe for now.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    It’s the 1970s again, when, thanks to regulations, cars are worse than their immediate predecessors.

    Blunt-nosed bunker styling, electronic overkill, turbo everything, engines that shut off at stop lights, 10 speed transmissions… it’s almost all bad.

    • 0 avatar

      Electric motor is the answer to all your concerns. Nothing can be simpler and more reliable than EV and Ford is working on it (thanks to VW)

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Yeah, no.

      I’ll put a MY2018 minivan against anything from the 1970s on any track.

      The minivan will be competive with the muscliest muscle cars.

      The 1970s cars sucked because car companies weren’t ready to advance technologically. But it can be argued that they really needed the kick in the pants to get with the program.

      The same things happened over at Caterpillar (more local to me), and they’re a much better company now than they were back in the 1970s. A certain generation of engineers hated having additional constraints put on them — and they did some $#!TTY things that ended up costing the company billions in fines (like the VW scandal). The younger engineers at Caterpillar put computers (including ECUs) on all the things, and made engines that were better & faster & cheaper & cleaner & more efficient — and kept improving things for the next several decades

      On this side of the historical divide, it sure looks like the engineers of the 1970s really did need a mighty kick in the pants to spur technological process. That kick was delivered, and we’re all better off as a result.

      • 0 avatar
        dtremit

        @Luke42 you’re not wrong, but you’re also not entirely countering M.B’s argument, either.

        Is a 2018 anything better than a 1978 anything? Yup, definitely.

        But look back at 1978 for a minute. Making the same argument, your 1978 Brougham Deluxe Pucci Edition was probably unequivocally better than anything from 1948, as well. What it *wasn’t* is better than cars from 1968.

        I guess the question is whether 2018 is closer to 1968 or 1978. I’m guessing it’s more the latter. Frankly, we have taken internal combustion cars as far as they are likely to go; at this point, no one’s making serious investments because no one believes they’re the future.

  • avatar
    JoDa

    Ford could easily chop 20% of global employees. They are of no value to a dinosaur bureaucracy like Ford. The new NAFTA agreement benefits Mexico at the expense of China, USA, and Canada…It is why Mexico quickly signed on. They had to change the name from NAFTA because their dumb public school tax cattle were starting to figure out that it had nothing to do with “Free Trade”.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    The AMC Eagle sure was ahead of its time :).

    https://autoweek.com/sites/default/files/styles/gen-738-415/public/83Eagle-Bottom.jpg

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