By on July 20, 2019

Ford Motor Company’s Oakville, Ontario assembly plant will soon see a reduction in manpower, according to the union representing Canadian Detroit Three autoworkers. The looming changes represent the latest blow to that country’s fragile car building presence.

For Ford, the cuts outlined by Unifor Local 7070 president Dave Thomas in a web post this week are an inevitable consequence of evolving lineups and consumer tastes. The company can’t build the Ford Flex forever.

According to Thomas, the Oakville plant, which builds the Flex, Edge, Lincoln MKT, and Lincoln Nautilus crossovers, will see its third paint shop shift culled, along with a production reduction of five vehicles per hour. More workforce cuts could be forthcoming in September, Thomas said, to the tune of 185 workers. That’s a company estimate, with the layoffs categorized as “permanent.”

More reductions loom on the horizon in January, he added.

“We have been arguing as a Local for the past several weeks trying to persuade the company from somehow avoiding this scenario but to no avail,” Thomas wrote. “As always, it’s based on a business decision and it all comes down to dollars and cents. Once again, our biggest concern was preserving good paying jobs and uprooting people’s lives.”

If you’ve been paying attention, new vehicle sales aren’t what they once were, both north and south of the border. On a year over year basis, auto sales have fallen each month this year in the United States, with Canada posting a 16th consecutive monthly sales loss at the end of June.

In a message to Automotive News, Ford stated it has “a long-standing practice of matching production with consumer demand.”

“As a result, we are making changes to the operating pattern,” the automaker added.

Which isn’t to say no one’s buying the Edge, Flex, MKT, or Nautilus. Far from it. The aging, boxy Flex, which enters the afterlife come 2020, saw its U.S. sales rise 25.8 percent in the first half of 2019. The livery darling MKT, which garners most of its sales from fleet operators, will continue in fleet-only production after the midsize Lincoln Aviator hits showrooms this summer. Sales of the admittedly low-volume three-row crossover rose 100.3 percent over the first half of the year.

The Nautilus, formerly the MKX, seemed to benefit from its recent name (and grille) change, with this year’s tally up nearly 3,000 units in the U.S. Only the Edge, which also underwent a refresh for 2019, saw its American numbers drop. The midsizer’s U.S. volume fell 5.6 percent through the end of June.

While the Oakville cuts wouldn’t earn much press in the U.S., the past several months has seen significant workforce reductions north of the border, especially when taking into consideration the industry’s vastly smaller manufacturing footprint. Fiat Chrysler recently announced a shift reduction at its Windsor minivan plant and General Motors plans to cease vehicle production at Oshawa Assembly by the end of the year.

[Images: © Matt Posky/The Truth About Cars 2018, Ford]

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25 Comments on “Cuts Coming to Ford Crossover Plant: Union...”

  • avatar

    1) There is now a’glut of most vehicles, including those in the “can’t make enough of them” CUV segment; dealerships are trying to lighten their stock while manufacturers are giving them enough rope to hang themselves by offering increasingly better floorplan terms and volume sales bonus cash (even this did not work to reduce dealership inventory of the CUVs referenced herein).

    2) We reached cyclical highs in new vehicle sales back in late 2017/early 2018 on seasonally adjusted rate basis, including those in the “never going to slow” CUV agreement.

    3) Real core inflation and a more dramatic slowdown in Asian (China) and South/Central American markets are real headwinds for the auto industry that will only build in strength for some time, and this could be a ‘first, gradually, then all of a sudden setup for NA and global auto sales (this is why Trump, as *almost* any POTUS would do, is praying’for Fed Reserve easing -‘although few if any Presidents would publicly pressure the Fed -, prior to the 2020 election, though the baseline interest/fed funds rates are so low now that even Fed easing would likely do no good, especially given a saturated economy fueled by 10 1/2 years of ultra cheap money, leading to misallocation of investment – mal-investment)

    4) Manufacturers and dealerships will now have to hurriedly adjust wholesale manufacturing output and inventory levels at the retail level to avoid a repeat of 2009.

    • 0 avatar

      POTUS and Fed are out of their minds – they panic as if economy is already in recession. I understand all that 2020 hysteria but there is nothing in Feds mandate that forces them to drop rates now, they should do the opposite. If recession is looming then let it happen and normalize money supply and cut deadwood out. Artificially postponing recession is not going to do anything good for economy – it is kicking can down the road – what American ruling class tends to do. It is not in Fed’s mandate to worry about economic downturn in China (which is long overdue) or Europe.

      • 0 avatar

        It is my opinion that we have been in a recession for 15-18 months. Not the ‘technical’ definition of a recession, but we really have. Last year, we had a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of 5%. However, the National Debt grew at 6% of GDP, meaning that real growth was -1%. That means we are really in a recession, at least by my definition. When FED chairman Powell announced that they would have a rate increase last December, the stock market took a sudden dump. When Powell announced the ‘Powell Pivot’, a reversal of that policy, the stock market rebounded very suddenly. But Trump and the congress money furiously, to make the GDP look like it is still positive. You notice that they are not arguing about spending. Why ? The global economy is slowing too. Look at the shipping indices’s. Rates and volume are slowing. There are many warning signs. Look around.

  • avatar

    I’m sorry to hear about any job cuts, that’s disappointing to read, but it unfortunately is the way things are going with new car sales. I believe that Lincoln will sell the hell out of the Aviator and the Nautilus, they are good vehicles for the market they are targeting and those households will still be buying. Leases, 15% on the hood and 84 month financing will be the playbook. Maybe they can get some production back, and Congress needs to get off their butts and pass the trade bill.

    I did find this statement puzzling from the press release from the union:

    “Once again, our biggest concern was preserving good paying jobs and uprooting people’s lives.” Aren’t they trying to “not uproot” people’s lives?

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, it might be clearer as: “…concerns were *the loss of* good paying jobs and uprooting…”
      “…concerns were preserving…and *not* uprooting…”

    • 0 avatar

      I think the aviator and nautilus are going to sell so well that they’ll be needing extra capacity and it’ll likely go to Oakville. Better looking and better value than what Merc, BMW and Audi offer and those buyers tend to not be affected by an economical slowdown.

  • avatar

    Decreasing sales and few or small incentives sooner or later equal layoffs. Why no incentives ? Are they building up a reserve in case of a strike ? A reserve so they can take a harder line in contract negotiations ? Something seems odd here.

  • avatar

    I can’t believe the Flex is still for sale, more power to them to keep selling especially if they’re pushing out more of them this far into the models life.

    • 0 avatar

      FCA says hi.

      • 0 avatar

        Yea but FCA keeps theirs updated very well and across the 3 cars on the platform pulls in a more than respectable number of sales. There’s nothing particularly special about the Flex other than the design, whereas FCA is selling a full-size RWD 300 HP family car that can get 30MPG for what some economy cars sell for.

        • 0 avatar

          Let’s try this again with my complete post.

          Yea but as we have seen FCA keeps theirs updated very well and as for the LX platform it’s shared across 3 cars and pulls in a more than respectable number of sales. There’s nothing particularly special about the Flex other than the design (and to some degree price), though we see FCA selling a full-size RWD 300 HP family car that can get 30MPG for what some economy cars sell for; they sell the cheapest way to get 3 rows of seats both in sliding door minivan and conventional door crossover, their two generations of pickups is putting a hurting on GM, and I could go on.

          But again I’m big on not fixing what’s not broken, and FCA has soldiered on aged platforms and have kept them interesting in some way.
          In my opinion the C7 should have stayed alive longer, 5 years is an extremely short life cycle for any car that’s not crap, and the car replacing it doesn’t even attract the same set of buyers furthering the confusion. GM seems the worst lately about screwing up good things.

          Bravo to Ford for keeping this vehicle on the market, let’s see if interest continues to climb they may have to rearrange the end production date.

          • 0 avatar

            I’ve never quite understood what’s bad about an ‘aging platform’. Like sure maybe they aren’t constantly making it stiffer and stiffer and stiffer and stiffer and stiffer and stiffer and stiffer and stiffer (new camry, 20% stiffer!) but so what?

          • 0 avatar

            “I’ve never quite understood what’s bad about an ‘aging platform’. Like sure maybe they aren’t constantly making it stiffer and stiffer ”
            It is like Second Law of Thermodynamics – entropy can only increase which defines the arrow of time. Eventually all matter in Universe ends up in black holes because black holes are structures with maximum possible entropy. Same happens with platforms – they will turn into black holes because of having maximum possible stiffness which is definition of black hole since there is no stiffer object in the Universe than Black Hole.

          • 0 avatar

            GM has messed some vehicles up lately. The 2019 Camaro facelift was so hideous that it could very likely be the thing that seals the death of the Camaro name. I will however argue that the C8 is a huge turning point in the Corvette. The change to a mid-engine layout with a relatively “cheap” price point for the performance it will offer. So what if some Florida retirees are upset that it doesn’t remind them of the C1 or C2 vetted they loved back in the day? If the Corvette kept chasing after the geriatric crowd much longer, the car’s appeal would die with them. A modern mid-rear layout car, with a DCT and supercar looks, that isn’t filled with the typical GM parts bin stuff, could help move the brand into a younger demographic. Corvette was suffering from the same aging issue that has affected brands like Buick and Lexus. It had to change.

            Also, there has yet to be any solid evidence that shows definitively that Ram is “putting a hurting on” GM trucks. Ford retail sales of the F-150 have almost certainly slipped by nearly as much as GM truck sales have. F-series sales only appear flat to down slightly because fleet sales were up significantly judging by the discussions during their Q1 and Q2 sales report conference calls. Since Ram isn’t differentiating between sales of the Classic, the 2019 1500, and their HD trucks, we have no idea how the new Ram 1500 is selling compared to the 2019 GM trucks or F-150. Ram is being extremely aggressive with the 2019 Ram Classic, offering a lot of options and special editions, as well as huge incentives. GM is selling a Silverado LD, but its only available as an extended cab with only bench seats, only with cloth, only with 3.42’s, only a 6-speed, and only with the 5.3. Extremely limited compared to the Classic.

            The concern I have with FCA’s “don’t change things” approach is that they’re increasingly reliant on buying CAFE credits from their competitors. The fines they pay will contnue to grow quickly as their sales rely more and more on trucks and SUV’s, and their car lineup shrinks.

          • 0 avatar

            I don’t believe this is a turning point for the Corvette, this is a totally different car for a totally different subset of buyers, and the vast majority that buy the C8, I would bet money, are boomers, not millennials or younger. I *am* the younger demographic, I have an interest in fun cars that aren’t exotic and I have the money to feed my interests. What I don’t have is interest in a mid engine car, automatic(DCT nightmare at that) car that looks like it’s straight out of the 1980s. This design should have stayed in the 80s and this car should have stayed at the exotic level where removing the engine is typical for engine work. Performance options on mid engine cars are costlier, more complex, and fewer in options.

            Corvette could have easily brought in more sales and a younger clientele with a price drop. $10k off we saw repeatedly shows that there was a lot of room to drop the price yet they kept to their guns.

            As for the Ram and Chevrolet, it doesn’t make any difference where the volume of sales are going; if FCA continues building the classic truck for 3 years to consumers who show less of a preference to the newer model then it’s still a sale for a Ram pickup. GM has just as much of an option to sell the old style truck as Ram. This is not an unfair comparison as GM full-size truck sales are sliding and Rams are increasing, and that measurement is independent if the Old VS New ratio of Rams.
            FCA has been ahead of the curve for years now, much was published about their lack of cars only for GM and Ford to follow suit, FCA has shed most (looking at Fiat) of their dead weight and seems to be comfortable raking it in on vehicles that are likely all very profitable. Whether they pay CAFE fines is indifferent as they sell what consumers *want* and the final decision in their line up is made up by what consumers desire.

            I agree GMs misstep with the Camaro will likely be the death of the car, through no fault of the name plate nor the segment. Had they redesigned it on the Zeta platform to fix the issues of the 5G the car would have likely been a real hit.

          • 0 avatar

            As an addendum,

            Why is it so important for a car like a Corvette to have a young clientele? Early adult life is typically spent trying to accumulate wealth, while I see a lot of 18-24 year olds driving 5-10 year old Corvettes – around 25-50 most adults are in the family stage of life and having a Corvette is far from usable, ( See the SS sedan sitting in my driveway).

            Around 55-60 when the kids are gone and the money is a plenty is when people again have the desire for two seater sports cars.

            So we have two options to lower the average age of the Corvette buyer.
            1) Change all of human nature and have 30 year olds put sports cars ahead of having a family.
            2) Sell more units to the 18-24 year old crowd, this option seems more plausible but not if they’re bumping up the price to $60k.

            If GM wants to earnestly lower the average age of the Corvette buyer then they needed to strip the exotic materials off of the C7 and get the car as close to $30k starting price with the 6.2L and supporting hardware. This mid engine design is a huge step back in practically which will result in a huge step up in average age.

            I have no doubt I will see at least 25 people in their mid 20s driving these in its first full production year, but the other 1,000 of them are going to have white hair.

          • 0 avatar

            I’m closing in on fifty years old. I have a college degree, as do pretty much all of my peers who I stayed in touch with. A few of my friends ‘started families’ early, as they had convictions that kept them from aborting their accidental babies. That ship has pretty much sailed.

            Most of the others were as portrayed in “Idiocracy,” the 2006 satire that looked two years into the future instead of two hundred. The women worried about their careers while the men enjoyed all the liberated careerist women who wanted to experience all the men the media told them were involved in having it all. Eventually, they married and had one sickly kid, having aborted all the ones conceived of with fresh eggs in their twenties.

            My parents both have doctorates. They didn’t start their family early by the standards of the ’60s. My mother was almost 26 when she had my older sister. She was 44 when she bought her first new Porsche, her daughter being in college and me being ready to drive myself wherever I needed to go. I’ve got friends who are close to fifty and just bought their first minivan. Ironically, they are the same guys whose peers bought new Porsches and even the odd new Corvette when we were all about 30 years old. They’ll be pretty old by the time they reenter the sports car market, should they ever. Are millenials going to become empty nesters early enough to buy sports cars in meaningful numbers? I doubt it.

        • 0 avatar

          Despite the Ram taking over second place in the pickup market from Chevrolet, FCA dealers have a very large supply (measured in days) of both Ram trucks, and Jeep Wranglers at this time. And Chevrolet has a large supply of Silverados.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            When I bought my Corvette, they were still considered a ‘cool’ car. Lots of ‘youngsters’ driving them. I paid $10,600 (new) and had just been out of high school for 2 years. At least one half dozen of my high school football teammates also bought (new) ‘Vette’s within 3 years of graduating from high school.

            Now they are a stereotypical ‘old man’ car. Think a ball cap to cover the bald spot and a late middle age crisis. Or retired.

            You can build a ‘brand’ based on that demographic. They are or will soon be ‘dying out’. And most of the younger generations don’t won’t to drive their father’s/grandfather’s car.

            Just ask Cadillac what happened to their sedan and coupe sales and brand prestige.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    So many cogent, intelligent posts so far that I honestly at the moment have nothing further to add other than a big ‘thumbs up’ to posters.

  • avatar

    So if this article is about the Ford Flex, why is the first photo of a row of Ford Edges?

  • avatar

    I’m still of the mind that the real, profitable, sustainable SAAR is somewhere around 10-12 million and not the 16-17 million we’ve seen in recent years. Ancient laggards like the Edge will likely be the first to go- crossover or not.

    As an MKX owner I am waiting to see what Ford does with the Edge… it’s long overdue for an update, and the Nautilus is OK but not up to the standard of the newest Lincoln offerings. However for us it’s the perfect size and price.

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