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Ford delays new pickups, cuts sales outlook

Ford Motor Co. will delay introduction of its new F-150 pickup truck by two months and further cut production because of the declining market for pickups, SUVs.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Ford Motor Co. will delay introduction of its new F-150 pickup truck by two months and further cut production because of the declining market for pickups and sport utility vehicles, the automaker announced Friday.

Ford also said its 2008 automotive financial results this year will be worse than in 2007, when the company posted an overall net loss of $2.7 billion. Its shares fell more than 6 percent in morning trading.

Moody's Investors Service on Friday cut the outlook for Ford's ratings to "Negative" from "Stable," citing high fuel costs driving customers away from the company's trucks and SUVs.

The automaker said it expects industrywide U.S. sales this year to drop to a range of 14.7 million and 15.2 million units. Ford previously had predicted 15 million to 15.4 million units.

Because of that, Ford also said Friday it will cut third-quarter production by another 50,000 vehicles. It now plans to produce 475,000 vehicles, 25 percent fewer than the third quarter of last year.

Following Ford’s announcement, credit ratings agency Standard & Poor’s said it may cut the debt ratings of U.S. automakers Ford and General Motors, sending their share prices down sharply.

Ford also said Friday its fourth-quarter production will drop 8 to 14 percent compared with the same quarter last year.

Most of the production cuts will come from extending the normal two-week summer shutdown at pickup and SUV plants, as well as shift and assembly line speed reductions, the company said in a statement.

Ford said it will now introduce the new F-150 model in late fall instead of its earlier target of late summer. The F-150’s have traditionally been its biggest sellers and most profitable vehicles.

The Dearborn-based automaker also said it will increase production of its Focus small car, as well as the Mercury Mariner and Ford Escape small SUVs.

It also will bring production of the next generation European Focus and Fiesta small cars to North America starting in 2010 “as Ford confirms it is revising its product plan to add more small cars, crossovers and fuel-efficient powertrains, including many from Ford’s acclaimed European lineup.”

Ford expects to detail changes to its restructuring plan when it announces earnings in July. But until then, the company said it would make the following production changes:

  • Production of the 2009 F-150 now will begin in August at the Kansas City Assembly Plant and in September at Dearborn Truck. Both factories will lose a shift of workers, with Kansas City going from two to one and Dearborn going from three to two.
  • The Dearborn Truck plant, which makes the F-150, will be idled most of the third quarter.
  • The Michigan Truck Plant in Wayne, which makes the Lincoln Navigator and Ford Expedition large SUVS, will be idled for nine weeks beginning June 23.
  • Ford will cut one shift at its Louisville Assembly Plant, which makes midsize SUVs, in the third quarter.
  • The assembly line speed will be reduced at the Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville in the third quarter. The plant makes large pickups. Chicago Assembly, which makes the Ford Taurus and other full-size sedans, also will see a third-quarter line speed reduction.
  • Production at the Cuautitlan Assembly Plant in Mexico will stop by the end of 2008 so it can be retooled from large pickups to make the new Fiesta small car in early 2010.
  • The Oakville, Ontario, plant near Toronto will get a third shift in the third quarter to increase production of the Ford Edge, Lincoln MKX and Ford Flex crossovers.
  • The Kansas City plant’s assembly line that makes small SUVs also will get a third shift in the third quarter.
  • Ford’s Wayne Assembly Plant, which makes the Focus, will see a third shift in its body and paint shops, and its line speed will be increased in the third quarter.

In addition, production at stamping, engine and transmission plants will be adjusted to handle the assembly plant changes, Ford said.

“We view the move to smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles as permanent, and we are responding to customer demand,” Ford CEO Alan Mulally said in the statement. “For the long term, we are moving fast to introduce more small cars, crossovers and fuel-efficient powertrains — including more hybrids — and we will adjust our manufacturing facilities to match our updated product lineup.”