Ford to close Ohio plant, shut another for a year

/ Source: The Associated Press

Ford Motor Co. said Monday it will close its casting plant in Brook Park, Ohio, near Cleveland in 2009. The plant employs 1,218 hourly and salaried workers.

The company also will shutter Cleveland Engine Plant 1 in Brook Park for at least a year starting in two weeks. It employs 577 workers. A second engine plant at the complex just west of Cleveland will remain open.

The casting plant is the 10th facility to be closed as part of Ford's "Way Forward" restructuring plan in which the company said it would close 16 facilities by 2012. The company already had announced nine of the closures.

Ford, which lost $12.7 billion (euro9.3 billion) last year and $282 million (euro207 million) in the first quarter, is in the midst of slashing thousands of jobs and rolling out new products in response to lower demand for its older vehicles.

The casting plant, which makes crankshafts for Ford's four-cylinder engines, bearing caps, engine blocks and other items, is being shuttered because Ford is getting out of the casting business to save money and focus more on engines, transmissions and other items that customers will notice. Eventually the company will have outside parts suppliers make all of its castings, said Joe Hinrichs, the company's vice president of North American manufacturing.

The engine plant makes 3.0-liter V-6 engines and was being retooled to make a larger 3.5-liter engine. But Ford said the plant was not needed due to market conditions and because the same engine already is made at a plant in Lima, Ohio.

"These are difficult actions, and we're approaching them with great sensitivity because they involve our people," Hinrichs said. "However, operating an efficient and competitive manufacturing business is a key to our Way Forward plan to transform our business back to sustained profitability."

Hinrichs said Ford retooled Cleveland Engine 1, because it expected, based on previous forecasts, that more 3.5-liter engines would be needed.

"Obviously the volume hasn't materialized," he said. "You have to align your capacity with the current demand that you have."

Hinrichs said Ford expects the engine plant to reopen by next spring, but with fewer employees as the nation's No. 2 automaker tries to become more efficient.

He said the net job loss from Monday's announcement should be the 1,100 hourly workers at the castings plant. Salaried workers at the plant will be offered opportunities elsewhere in Ford, he said.

The company will repeat its buyout and early retirement offers to all workers at the Brook Park complex, Hinrichs said. So far about 25,000 workers for Ford and a holding company that is running some plants it intends to close or sell have left the company under the program, Hinrichs said.

The cuts in Brook Park are the latest planned by Ford in Ohio, which has been hit especially hard by Ford's troubles.

Last September, Ford said it was closing a stamping plant in Maumee, near Toledo, that has 680 workers and in January 2006, Ford said it was closing a transmission plant in Batavia, near Cincinnati, with 1,445 workers. Both those plants are set to close next year.

In addition, Ford has said that by the end of 2008 it would close or sell all facilities that it took back as part of a bailout of Visteon Corp., a supplier spun off from the automaker. A component plants in Sandusky, Ohio, that employs 1,700 workers is among the operations affected.