Desperate times: Ford will retool truck plants to build cars

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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