DETROIT -- Although Ford Motor Co. will close one of the plants producing its all-important F-150 pickup, excess SUV capacity seems to be the real target of closings announced last week.
Ford executives said the company will maintain F-series capacity at 900,000 vehicles annually even after its Norfolk, Va., plant is idled in 2008. Ford also announced the closing of its plant in St. Paul, Minn., which makes the Ford Ranger pickup.
They are the fourth and fifth assembly plants slated to close as part of the automaker's Way Forward North American restructuring plan. In all, Ford says it will close 14 plants, including seven assembly locations, through 2012.
Although Ford could do more to max out its two remaining F-150 plants in Dearborn, Mich., and Kansas City, Mo. -- such as add third shifts -- it's not clear they will absorb all of the lost F-150 units. Instead, the closures could put production back on track at Ford's Michigan Truck plant in Wayne, Mich.
That site was considered the most profitable auto plant in the world when it produced the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator on three shifts several years ago. But plunging SUV sales left Michigan Truck with just 138,700 units of production and 13 weeks of downtime in 2005. It has been idled an additional six weeks so far this year.