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2005 Ford Focus

Planned summer furloughs at assembly plant come as Focus car, wagon sales dip

By Mike Hudson / The Detroit News

WAYNE — Ford Motor Co. will lay off 300 workers at its Wayne Assembly plant this summer due to a planned slowdown of the Ford Focus assembly line, according to an internal plant bulletin.

Ford will reduce production of its Focus cars and wagon on June 1, affecting as many as 300 of the plant’s 3,500 workers.

Last year, Focus sales fell 6 percent, mirroring an overall industry decline in small car demand.

The plant now produces about 74 cars an hour.

“The proposed line speed cut is somewhere between 10 and 15 cars per hour,” Bill Johnson, chairman of the UAW’s bargaining committee at the plant, said in a Feb. 11 letter to workers.

The plant also will be idled for three weeks in March to allow Ford to retool the factory to begin building the 2005 Focus.

The automaker will suspend production to prevent 2004 models from clogging up dealer lots when the redesigned 2005 model hits showroom floors, officials said.

“We expect overall sales to be up 1 percent and think the Focus will stay about even to where it was in 2003,” said George Pipas, sales analyst for Ford.

“As a segment, small cars won’t be growing like sport utilities, but it should hold its own with so many young buyers coming into the market.”

Honda Motor Co., citing sluggish demand, plans to reduce output of the Civic small car at a plant in East Liberty, Ohio, this spring.

The Wayne Assembly production cuts come as negotiations are stalled at Ford’s adjacent Michigan Truck plant in Wayne, where the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator SUVs are built.

Workers at the truck plant have twice rejected management efforts to adopt more flexible work rules similar to those adopted by the Focus plant several years ago.

Some Michigan Truck workers have cited layoffs at Wayne Assembly as evidence that adopting more flexible work rules does not protect jobs.

UAW officials at Wayne Assembly did not return calls for comment.

Sales slump

Demand for many small cars is dropping, forcing automakers to slash production. How sales of leading small cars fared in 2003:

Model 2003
unit sales change

Toyota Corolla/ Matrix 325,477 28%
Honda Civic 299,672 -4.3%
Chevy Cavalier 256,550 7.7%
Ford Focus 229,353 -5.7%
VW Golf/ Jetta 147,209 -17%
Dodge Neon 120,101 -5%
Saturn Ion 117,230 N/A
Nissan Sentra 94,500 -11%
Mazda3/ Protégé 70,869 -15%
Pontiac Vibe 56,922 -11%

Source: Autodata
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