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Ford facing complete shutdown of F-150 production after plant fire

"The F-Series is the profit machine. If this goes longer than a week, it could really hurt second-quarter performance."

by Paul A. Eisenstein /
Image: Ford 2015 F-150 pickup trucks move down the final inspection line at the Ford Rouge Center in Dearborn
Ford 2015 F-150 pickup trucks move down the final inspection line at the Ford Rouge Center in Dearborn, Michigan, on Nov. 11, 2014.Rebecca Cook / Reuters file

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Ford has temporarily laid off 3,600 workers and shut down half the production of the company’s best-selling vehicle, the F-150 pickup truck, following a fire at a supplier facility.

A major fire at Meridian Magnesium Products in Eaton Rapids, Michigan, on May 2 created a shortage of die-cast parts for the F-150, which is produced at plants in Missouri and Michigan. The truck production half of Ford's Kansas City plant is shut down for the week.

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"The F-Series is the profit machine," Dave Sullivan of AutoPacific told NBC News. "They should be able to weather a short-term shutdown. But if this goes longer than a week, it could really hurt second-quarter performance."

The company is still running the truck portion of the Dearborn, Michigan plant, but faces a tough decision regarding the 4,000 employees there. The plant is running at full speed for now.

"It is still a very fluid situation," said company spokeswoman Kelli Felker. “We are working closely with our supplier to manage the situation.”

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The United Automobile Workers labor union also sent out a note to its employees. "The company has informed us that we have enough parts to build vehicles through Thursday," reads the letter from Burkie Morris, UAW president and chairman at the Dearborn Truck Plant. "The company is meeting continuously to find a solution."

General Motors and Fiat Chrysler facilities have also been impacted by the fire and subsequent parts shortages. GM shut down production of its full-size van line in Wentzville, Missouri; a situation that GM spokesperson Nick Richards described as “temporary."

Fiat Chrysler said production of the Chrysler Pacifica at its Windsor assembly plant "has been impacted" and that the company is "adjusting production schedules as needed to minimize plant downtime, but will make up any lost production.”

But Ford is suffering the biggest impact. The Missouri plant produces between 900 to 1,000 trucks daily while the Michigan plant produces as many as 1,100 at current run rates, according to the company. GM and FCA were uncertain how much production has been lost to the problem.

For now, it appears buyers won’t be impacted by the shutdown at Ford, according to analysts. Inventory levels are strong — but still, the automaker doesn’t want to let this shutdown linger.

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