All of those actions involve operations at Ford's plants in Michigan and Missouri. The likeliest candidate to be involved is Michigan Assembly, which is newly converted to build body-on-frame Ranger pickups and Bronco SUVs.
Jeff Schuster, LMC's president of global forecasting, said the plant's 400,000-unit annual capacity would leave room for more product even after the Ranger ramps up and Bronco output begins.
It also would fill a weakness in VW's U.S. lineup. VW's Chattanooga plant builds the unibody Atlas crossover and the Passat sedan. VW is debating whether to offer its U.S. dealerships a small body-on-frame pickup based on the Ranger or a unibody pickup that would closely follow the Tanoak concept unveiled in March. Diess in November told Automotive News that a unibody pickup in the U.S. was "probably still a bit risky," but that the final decision would be up to VW's new North American CEO, Scott Keogh.
Ford's Flat Rock Assembly Plant in suburban Detroit could be another option. It's the sole global source of the Mustang and Lincoln Continental, but Ford is cutting output to one daily shift in the spring because of weak demand. Even on two shifts today, Flat Rock has a utilization rate of only 49 percent, according to LMC.
New product is on the horizon for Flat Rock, however. The site is getting a $900 million investment to build Ford's commercial autonomous vehicle slated for 2021. If VW wanted to partner on self-driving vehicles, that work likely would happen in Flat Rock.
The Kansas City Assembly Plant in Missouri, running at just 63 percent utilization, also would make sense. It builds the F-150 and Transit, two huge players in the commercial-vehicle market in which VW is interested. Ford idled its Transit line for two weeks in October in response to slower commercial orders.