DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. executives underestimated the strength of the U.S. market in the first quarter and found themselves short of cars. That's why Ford dropped 1.4 points of U.S. market share, says Mark Fields, Ford's president of the Americas.
To rectify the problem, Ford is adding shifts, shortening summer shutdowns and preparing to build more cars at a plant it shares with Mazda Motor Corp. It will even speed the line at a factory that already is running on three shifts.
"The market got a little bit ahead of us," Fields told Automotive News last week. "Most of our production actions and capacity increases take place in the second half of this year."
Fields knows his actions will help little until late this year. Indeed, in a first-quarter analysts' call, Ford officials changed their guidance on market share, admitting Ford will lose share this year, rather than hold steady as they had previously predicted.
Still, Fields believes that a strong lineup, aided especially by the redesigned 2013 Ford Fusion sedan and Escape crossover, eventually will help Ford gain share. So as he adds production capacity, he's also trying to make sure that Ford has factory flexibility so it can respond to shifts in consumer demand.
For example, Ford plans to have its Hermosillo, Mexico, factory back up to three shifts building the 2013 Fusion later this year. By year end the plant will build all five Fusion powertrain configurations -- three gasoline engines, a hybrid and a plug-in hybrid. Hermosillo also builds the Lincoln MKZ sedan.
In the middle of next year, Ford will add the 2013 Fusion and a second shift at the AutoAlliance International Inc. plant in Flat Rock, Mich., south of Detroit, which Mazda co-owns. The plant will make gasoline-engine versions of the Fusion on the line where the Mazda6 sedan now is built, Fields said.
Mazda's future role in the plant is unclear. Mazda says it will keep its half ownership of the factory but hasn't designated another vehicle to be built there after production of the Mazda6 ends this year. Ford also builds the Mustang there.
The two factories should ensure enough Fusions in whatever configurations consumers want. Ford will offer three four-cylinder gasoline options: a 1.6-liter EcoBoost, a 2.0-liter EcoBoost and a normally aspirated 2.5-liter engine.
This summer Ford will shut down the Hermosillo plant for a couple of weeks to change over to the new Fusion, Jim Tetreault, Ford's lead manufacturing executive for North America, told Automotive News.
When the plant reopens, it will resume its current three-shift schedule, but "We'll be increasing production volumes a few jobs an hour," Tetreault said, to 62 units per hour, from 58. Ford produced 329,509 Fusions and MKZs at Hermosillo in 2011.
Beyond Hermosillo, "We're putting in line speed increases anywhere we can technically support it," Tetreault said.
And Ford isn't just speeding lines.
Ford has reduced its summer shutdowns to one week, from two, at six of its eight North American plants, a move that will produce 40,000 additional vehicles. It is adding a third shift at three of those plants: Chicago, which builds the Explorer, Taurus and Lincoln MKS; Louisville Assembly, which builds the Escape; and Michigan Assembly, which builds the Focus and will add the C-Max in the second half.