Ford cuts summer shut-down time at Louisville Assembly Plant to churn out more SUVs

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Ford Motor Co. is eliminating one of the three shifts at Louisville Assembly Plant, but the roughly 500 workers on the crew will be offered jobs across town at Kentucky Truck Plant, the company said Wednesday.

The cuts at LAP will affect the plant’s C Crew, whose members work a Friday-Monday schedule. The change will happen next spring.

Employees were told of the plan in a special meeting at LAP on Wednesday.

While all regular employees will be able to transfer, Ford spokeswoman Kelli Felker said it's too soon to say how the moves will affect temporary workers.

"We are still working out those details. We will make every effort to find jobs at other Ford plants for our temporary workers," she said in an email.

LAP makes the Escape, which is Ford's best-selling SUV, but sales of the vehicle are down 10 percent this year. Across town at KTP, Ford is planning to ramp up production of the Expedition and Lincoln Navigator SUVs by 20 percent, thus the need for more workers there.

Expedition sales are up about 4 percent this year, while Navigator sales are up about 81 percent. Both are lower-volume vehicles for Ford. KTP's main product is the F-Series Super Duty pickup truck. 

There about 4,730 workers at LAP, including about 4,530 hourly employees represented by the UAW, according to figures provided by Felker. KTP has about 8,500 employees, including 8,200 hourly workers.

Ford executives have said the sales slowdown for the Escape is intentional as the company is working on a redesign of the vehicle for the 2020 model.  

“We’re actually taking conscious actions -- decisions -- to kind of pull back a bit on volume because we're … protecting, if you will, residual values and protecting the nameplate brand as we prepare for the launch of the new one,” Ford CFO Robert Shanks told analysts on the company’s Oct. 24 earnings call.

“We are actually taking some short-term (market) share decisions on Escape to protect the transition to the new vehicle,” Ford CEO Jim Hackett said during the earnings call.

Rumors of the elimination of the C Crew had been percolating for weeks at LAP. It was only Wednesday that Ford revealed plans to transfer the workers to KTP. 

Todd Dunn, president of UAW Local 862, the union representing workers at both plants, said he was unable to comment before union leaders were able to share details with all affected employees in person. 

But Dunn said he is "very proud and very happy" to have two Ford plants in Louisville and the union's goal is to preserve all jobs in the transition.

"We are taking something that could have been a negative and taking it in a positive direction for the membership," he said.

Reach reporter Chris Otts at 502-585-0822, cotts@wdrb.com, on Twitter or on Facebook. Copyright 2018 WDRB News. All rights reserved.

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Chris Otts reports for WDRB.com about business and economic topics, higher education and local / state government. He joined WDRB News in 2013 after seven years with The Courier-Journal. Got a tip? Chris is at 502-585-0822 and cotts@wdrb.com.