LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Ford Motor Co. is tentatively planning to idle Kentucky Truck Plant for two weeks in late May as a result of the microchip shortage hampering the automotive industry, according to the top union official at the eastern Jefferson County plant.
The plant is “tentatively” scheduled for layoff the weeks of May 17 and May 24, Jon Jaggers, the UAW Local 862 building chairman for Kentucky Truck Plant, said in a memo sent Thursday to the plant’s more than 8,000 rank-and-file workers.
In a brief interview, Jaggers told WDRB that the layoff is not certain, but he wanted to give his members as much notice as possible.
“As of now, if nothing changes, those two weeks are slated to be down,” Jaggers said.
Ford spokeswoman Kelli Felker wouldn’t confirm the potential layoff at Kentucky Truck Plant.
“This is an extremely fluid situation. We are working closely with suppliers to address potential production constraints tied to the global semiconductor shortage and working to prioritize key vehicle lines for production, making the most of our semiconductor allocation,” Felker said in an email.
Meanwhile, Ford on Thursday confirmed its previously announced plan to idle its other Louisville factory, Louisville Assembly Plant, the weeks of April 12 and April 19 because of the parts shortage.
Ford also said it's idling three other plants next week.
General Motors said Thursday it will halt production at several North American factories and extend shutdowns at some others, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Unlike Louisville Assembly Plant, which has already missed four weeks of production in 2021, Kentucky Truck Plant has been only marginally affected by the chip shortage. If the plan holds, next month will be Kentucky Truck's first full down week due to the shortage.
The plant produces Super Duty pickup trucks, which carry a high price tag and are some of the company's most profitable vehicles.
"My belief is, they are going to do everything they can to keep this place running," Jaggers said.
Joseph McCabe, CEO of industry consultant Autoforecast Solutions LLC, said the fact that Ford is contemplating cutting production of highly profitable Super Duty pickups shows the extent of the chip shortage.
"Now that the trucks are being hit, it is really showing the cracks in the whole process. They can't wait anymore," he said.
Spoke a few minutes ago with Joseph McCabe of @AutoForecast about the computer chip shortage finally impacting Ford's Kentucky Truck Plant in a noticeable way. Here's his take. More on @WDRBNews at 4. Tune in or stream live at https://t.co/KIIla290ll https://t.co/6W7tm08lku pic.twitter.com/nnw0s3kGZ9— Chris Otts (@christopherotts) April 9, 2021
Autoforecast Solutions calculates that Louisville Assembly Plant's volume could decline by 15% this year because of the loss of work, while Kentucky Truck Plant's could decline 4%. Both of those figures could be mitigated if Ford can make up for lost time later in the year, McCabe said.
Ford plans to make up for lost production this summer by running plants that are normally idle for one or two weeks around the July 4 holiday. Kentucky Truck is among the group losing its "summer shutdown" period, but not Louisville Assembly.
Kentucky Truck employees won't lose the summer shutdown vacation hours they would normally enjoy, but they will have to schedule them throughout the year like other vacation hours.