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Ford's recent announcement to reduce its white collar workforce costs by 15% shows that Mulally & Co. are dead-serious about turning around the Dearborn, MI automaker. The newest twist in the FoMoCo saga takes the situation from serious to near desperate, as plant managers and union leadership are convening in Dearborn to discuss switching factories from truck to car production. Such a move is much easier to make in one of Toyota or Honda's flexible manufacturing plants, but Ford has plenty of facilities that are hardwired to build only one or two products. Analysts say that costs could be $250 million a year or more, which would make for a huge dent in Ford's already shrinking bank account.

The good news is that Ford is looking at its European products as the vehicles it needs to build State-side. We enthusiasts have been drooling over the Euro Focus, Fiesta, Mondeo, S-Max and Kuga for quite a while, but their fuel-efficient ways will have the masses finally thinking Ford first if they come here.

Ford won't announce its plans until July, and some details will be held back for months more, but The Detroit News has it on good authority that the Michigan Truck and Louisville plants will be part of the shift away from gas guzzlers. Louisville, which currently produces the Explorer, would shift to a unibody facility that produces cars and CUVs. Michigan Truck, which produces the Navigator and Expedition, will make room for the F-100, which will be smaller and likely more efficient than the F-150 on which it's based.

It's amazing what $4 per gallon gasoline can do to U.S. manufacturing, no? Ford just may be on the verge of the largest shift in the company's 105-year history, and we're all here to witness it. Here's hoping the plan works.

[Source: The Detroit News, Photo by JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      I don't see how this shift is any different than the one they did in the 90's to producing more trucks and SUVs. They used to have a very large lineup of cars until the mid-nineties.

      I wonder if they will try an count F-100 sales as F-series sales, just so they can keep their "#1 selling pickup" tag line.

        • 7 Years Ago

        GM and Dodge are able to market 1500-3500 series trucks as one line because they are all the same body and name. Ford did this with the F-Series too until 1999 when the Super Duty F250-350 came out.

        Why are people complaining that Ford should have to divide up sales between F150 and F250-450 because they are the only ones to go through the expense of engineering a completely new vehicle to suit the market when their competition simply changes parts (some big parts such as frames and suspensions) to get the upgraded capacities of their trucks that are in direct competition?

        Additionally, if the F100 was an all new truck on a new platform, I could see it being called Ranger. Since it is based on the F150 architecture, it's really not a new Ranger. Now if GM, Dodge, Toyota, Nissan, and Honda all want to make a slightly smaller version of the Silverado, Ram, Tundra, Titan, and Ridgeline based on the existing trucks. they too can add that to their lineup of trucks and tally them together in sales reporting.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Trust me, I know they are different brands. However, admittedly, the F-150 and Super Duty are different trucks as well. Yet, they are counted together. They may as well add the Ranger sales in too, why stop there?

        By that logic, Chevy should just rename the Tahoe, Suburban, and Trailblazer to Silverado SUV, Silverado SUV EXT, and Silverado Trail and add all their sales together too since they'd have the same name. They'd have the highest selling vehicle for the foreseeable future. It makes at least as much sense as lumping together the F-150 and Super Duty sales.

        I understand that it's tradition since before 1997(I think), the Super Duty's weren't as different from the F-150's as they are now. But, that's a poor excuse IMO.
        • 7 Years Ago
        @ Mike:

        Here's my side of it then. Since Fords F-150's and Super Duty's are close enough to be counted together. Then why aren't the Silverado and Sierra counted together?

        They are even more closely related than the F-150 and Super Duty. You even admitted that they engineered a completely new vehicle with the Super Duty. Well, the Silverado and Sierra are virtually identical save for a few body and interior differences.

        If they were counted together, Ford would have never had the title as the Best-Selling Truck or Best-Selling vehicle. As it is, the Silverado isn't that far behind F-Series sales and the Sierra sells about another 50%.
        • 7 Years Ago
        "#1 selling pickup" tag line.

        That is a farce but I hate it more when they call it the #1 selling vehicle. That cant be farther from the truth.
        With 40% of Fseries sales being the superduty, the F-150 has sold only in the 340,000 to 420,000 range. The Toyota Camry overtook the best selling vehicle crown in 2002.
        Heck the Ford Focus beat the F-150 sales last month!
        • 7 Years Ago
        That is exactly why they are calling it the F-100 and not the Ranger. Put as many different products under one umbrella to inflate sales. F-150 and F-450 have nothing in common yet counted together.
      • 7 Years Ago
      The last time the public insisted on smaller cars was the 80's.

      Back then almost every car company had a truly compact pickup.
      Now Ford who's best selling (in the segment) Ranger is INCREDIBLY outdated could stay on top of the game but gave that up to put money into SUV's that they can't sell any longer.

      Much like everyone else, I'm looking forward to those Euro Fords.
      Might as well send over the Euro market Ranger too.
      • 7 Years Ago
      The F-100 will need to have exceptionally good fuel economy for its size to be a legitimate seller for Ford.

      People who use trucks for work won't want the F-100 because it's just a scaled-down F-150, unless it's substantially more fuel efficient.

      People who use trucks for pleasure won't want the F-100 because it's not likely to be a small enough truck to justify choosing it over an F-150, unless it's fuel-efficient enough to save a big chunk of money during use.

      Basically, regarding Michigan Truck: Unless the F-100 can get better than 18 mpg, retool the plant for the Ranger compact and dump the F-100 concept.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Didn't Toyota just announce their intent to start building Camrys at their big bad new Tundra plant in Texas?

      Oh, wait, we're supposed to be bashing Ford here, not noticing how Toyota didn't exactly forecast the current vehicle climate either.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Well, Ford's not the only one slowing down their truck production: http://blog.buyingadvice.com/2008/06/nissan-reduces.html
      • 7 Years Ago
      ""The domestic automakers are simply not smart and efficient enough...always outwitted and outsold by the Asians, the Japanese in particular.""

      Chrysler nearly matches the best of the Japanese overall for productivity, with the Toledo Jeep plant being the overall best of any.

      And, the flexibility of Ford's production is affected by the fact that they have to enter into binding contracts with the UAW as to what vehicle will be produced where and for how long. The Japanese and Koreans don't suffer from this.

      Additionally, most of the Japanese and Korean plants, have massive taxpayer subsidies granted by Tenn. and Miss. in order to get the plants located in those states.

      The myth of superior Japanese production know how and efficiency continues...
        • 7 Years Ago
        I don't know about Ford plants but I can tell you that the following Chrysler plants are flexible:

        Belvidere Assembly (IL) - Dodge Caliber, Jeep Compass and Patriot

        Brampton Assembly (Canada) - Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger, Dodge Challenger

        Jefferson North Assembly (MI) - Jeep Grand Cherokee and Commander

        Sterling Heights Assembly (MI)- Dodge Avenger/Chrysler Sebring

        Toledo North Assembly (OH) - Jeep Liberty and Dodge Nitro

        Toluca Assembly (Mexico) - PT Cruiser, Dodge Journey

        Windsor Assembly (Canada) - Town & Country, Dodge Caravan, and until recently, Chrysler Pacifica
      • 7 Years Ago
      My 2008 Ford focus gets 43MPG take that Civic
      • 7 Years Ago
      The real problem in here is that Frauds cars are much, much worse than theit trucks.

      Focus is a JOKE compared to Civic and Corolla
        • 7 Years Ago
        Trevor, have you seen Euro Civic in person or driven one? I have driven both focus Euro Civic and Focus and both are excellent and are better in all categorizes than what we get in America. So don't assume that if that Ford offers its Euro models here that the Honda and Toyota will just ignore it.
        • 7 Years Ago
        lol @ Corolla. They don't even have independant rear suspension on Toyota Corollas. Take a look sometime, they have a 19th century torsion bar.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Um. Have you seen the Euro Focus?
        Blows away both of those little ricers.
        • 7 Years Ago
        The Corolla is an awful car PERIOD. It's poorly thought out and poorly executed. I was backing out of a parking lot yesterday in one and the lights don't turn on until you go into drive. Couldn't see a thing. The car has some nice soft touches, but the arm rest on the door of all places is hard plastic. It drives and handles extremely poorly. It sells on Toyota quality alone.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Dynamically speaking, perhaps (although there is plenty of recent evidence that reliability-and-quality-wise Ford is right up there). However, the European Focus, which will be sold here in its next generation is widely acclaimed to be the best car in its class- better than the Civic, Corolla, and even the Mazda 3 that shares the same chassis. European Fords are amongst the very best cars in their classes. Hopefully, consumers give the new Fords a chance.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Mercury is DEAD !!! Let it go. Geez.

      If you want a euro Focus buy a Mazda3.

      • 7 Years Ago
      I have said it before . . . the US automakers were only following their consumer. During the 90's, we all wanted the biggest baddest vehicle we could buy, so Ford & GM sold us these vehicles. During this same time, just 150 miles away from here in Texas, Ford & GM have been selling their top Euro compact vehicles in Mexico. Why? Because their consumers need it and want it. Now that we need it, it is to late for them to scramble and sell us these products. At this point, even the French Renault and Peugeot have a better chance of getting their Diesel powered compacts here.
      • 7 Years Ago
      So, when Toyota and Nissan retool car plants to switch from truck to car production it's an example of leadership and wise planning, but when Ford does the exact same thing, it's a sign of desperation?

      This despite Toyota's sinking 1.2 Billion dollars into its Texas Truck plant just before the collapse of the light pickup market in the US, and despite Nissan sinking a similar amount into Titan-Frontier-Armada production in Mississippi.

      Amazingly shrill anti-Ford bias there.
        • 7 Years Ago
        There is no bias here just simply stating a fact. Please read the full Detnews article mentioned above. Mullaly at the last board meeting butted heads with several people that say retooling plants for something else is too costly.
        All this shows is how inflexible most of Fords plants are.
        The best Ford plant is in Oakville Ontario.

        For Example the Honda plant in Allisson can go from Odyssey to Civic in 2 days if the parts are on hand or coming from the supplier. They clear the assembly line from start to finish and recalibrate the system and way they go. It does not cost billions to do it.

        Thats all.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Give up, autoblog is incredibly biased on this here.

        In that pic, you see a truck being built on a moving-platform factory (height-adjustable even!), not an assembly line in sight. This plant (at least this part of it), has no restrictions on vehicle track, almost none on length. And if these are AGV's (likely but impossible to tell) few even on the path the assemblies have to move through the plant.

        But hey, it's old-tech unreconfigurable crap, because it's domestic. It's clearly as old as the hills, because it's domestic even though moving platform plants didn't come around until the late 80s (and this one clearly isn't even that old).

        Oh, here's a link. This system was put in in the age-old times of 2004, I'm shocked it doesn't use steam power.


        'With the launch of the new 2004 Ford F-150 at Norfolk Assembly, Ford also introduced its new flexible production technology. "Just as the F-Series has defined the truck market for more than 26 years, our all-new flexible manufacturing system introduces a new era of flexible manufacturing at Ford," said Roman Krygier, group vice president, Global Manufacturing and Quality.

        Norfolk is the first of several Ford plants to install a next-generation flexible system, allowing it to build up to eight different models off two platforms. "Norfolk Assembly now has the ability to change the mix, volume and options of products in response to consumer demand and market segmentation – all with minimal investment and changeover loss," said Krygier.'

        Yep. It can build 8 different models at once.

        Keep hitting how backwards the US automakers are, autoblog.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Actually I think the desperation is because this is a HUGE step for them that will take a lot of work and investment. Mostly b/c like the story mentions, they are so much structured for trucks and SUVs that is will take a LOT of work to convert to some cars or other vehicles. This is desperation compared to Toyota and others because Toyota and others are already very flexible and can do this fairly easily. Ford will need to make a huge effort to get this done.
        • 7 Years Ago
        The comparisons of Ford's plants to Honda's, Toyota's or anyone else US plants would make a lot more sense if they were all about the same age.

        I honestly don't know the actual figures, but I've got reason to believe that Ford's plants are probably a lot older than a US Honda or Toyota plant that was built in the last 5-10yrs. I'd venture to say that the Ford plants are older by at least a few decades.

        So, yes, there is a huge cost to them to update those plants to become more flexible and I can see whay they want to go about it slowly to spread out the cost. Problem is, current market conditions aren't really allowing that to happen.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I wonder if Ford reads this blog, cuz if it is then, bring the Ka, Fiesta, Euro Focus, Mondeo & Kuga. Thats it end of story.
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