Ford workers and local officials said Friday they'll do everything in their power to keep plants open after a report suggested Ford is considering...
DETROIT — Ford workers and local officials said Friday they’ll do everything in their power to keep plants open after a report suggested Ford is considering closing five North American plants as part of a major restructuring.
Lawmakers and union officials said they would pile on tax breaks or change plant work rules to encourage Ford to stay. In Minnesota, House Speaker Steve Sviggum, the Legislature’s top Republican, said he wouldn’t rule out pushing for a special session to consider incentives for keeping a plant in St. Paul.
“We’re not going to let this go without a fight,” he said. “We’re going to give every incentive we can to make sure these jobs are maintained.”
The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the nation’s second-biggest automaker is likely to close assembly plants in St. Louis, Atlanta and St. Paul under a still-evolving restructuring plan. It cited two unidentified people familiar with the automaker’s product plans.
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The newspaper said an engine-parts plant in Windsor, Ontario, and a truck-assembly plant in Cuautitlan, Mexico, also are scheduled for closure.
If Ford closes the plants, it would deal another blow to U.S. autoworkers, already reeling from a plan announced last month by General Motors to close 12 North American facilities and cut 30,000 jobs. The nation’s car manufacturers are suffering from declining sales, especially of sport-utility vehicles, even as the cost of labor and health care rises.
Ford shares rose 5 cents to close at $8.15 Friday.
Together, the Ford plants cited in Friday’s report employ around 7,000 people, according to Ford’s Web site. Ford had a total of 122,877 North American employees at the end of last year. The automaker has around 324,000 employees worldwide.
Ford has been struggling with declining U.S. market share, high labor costs and excess plant capacity. The company reported a $1.2 billion pretax loss in its North American automotive operations in the third quarter.
Ford Chairman and CEO Bill Ford has said the company will reveal details in January. Bill Ford said in October the plan will include “significant” job cuts and plant closures.
Ford is using only around 86 percent of its North American assembly-plant capacity, compared with 107 percent at rival Toyota. Ford has 23 assembly plants in North America.
“Obviously, we’ve indicated we will address our excess capacity,” Ford spokesman Oscar Suris said Friday. “We’ve been pretty consistent in saying we’ll share these plans in more detail in January. Nothing is finalized.”
The United Auto Workers refused to comment on the report, saying it is speculation.
Chuck Moore, director of the Detroit-area restructuring firm Conway, MacKenzie and Dunleavy, said the plants are the subject of speculation, in part because of the products they make.
The Atlanta plant makes the Ford Taurus sedan, which is scheduled to be phased out next year. The St. Louis plant makes the Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer, two vehicles that have been struggling.
The St. Paul plant makes the Ford Ranger pickup, which also saw sales fall nearly 25 percent between January and November, and the Cuautitlan plant makes the F-150 and Super-Duty trucks that could be consolidated elsewhere, Moore said.
Moore said Ford also has to make clear how it plans to stem its market-share losses. Ford’s U.S. market share fell to 17.4 percent in the first 11 months of the year, down from 18.4 percent the year before.
Associated Press reporter Brian Bakst in St. Paul contributed to this report.