Ford plans to resume production of critical F-150 pickup Friday

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Ford has temporarily stopped producing its F-150 trucks because it run out of parts after a fire at a key parts supplier for the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. Aleksandra Michalska reports.
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Defying predictions of weeks-long delays, Ford said production of America’s best-selling vehicle, the F-150 pickup, will resume Friday.

The production line of the popular truck will restart after shutting down May 9 following a fire at a key supplier.

The startup will bring the Dearborn, Mich., Truck Plant back on Friday, the automaker said. It will be followed by a resumption of F-150 production at the Kansas City Assembly Plant and of the heavy-duty version, called the Super Duty, at the Kentucky Truck Plant, on Monday, Ford executives announced Wednesday afternoon.

“Ford marshaled a global team of experts, that included partners and suppliers, following a May 2 fire at Meridian Magnesium Products in Eaton Rapids, Mich., to quickly refurbish and relocate tooling needed to produce parts for the Ford F-150, Super Duty and five other vehicles — Ford Expedition, Explorer, Flex and Lincoln Navigator and MKT,” the company said in a statement.

Ford described a huge effort to restart production of the key components idled by the fire. Teams removed 19 dies from Meridian’s badly damaged facility. They also chartered a huge, Russian-built Antonov cargo jet to move an 87,000-pound die from Eaton Rapids, Mich., to Nottingham, England over the span of just 30 hours.

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In addition, Meridian is producing truck parts again in the undamaged portions of it Eaton Rapids factory. 

The plant makes supports for radiators. After the fire, some experts and officials predicted the Meridian plant could be closed for several weeks.

The disruption affected the jobs of 7,600 Ford workers in Dearborn and Missouri.

A massive fire not only disrupted Ford, but production for General Motors, Fiat Chrysler and Mercedes as well. It triggered unplanned layoffs throughout the United States.

Ford was most affected. Production of its F-150, America’s top-selling vehicle and a huge moneymaker, was shut down on May 9 at the Dearborn Truck Plant, the Kansas City Assembly Plant and the Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville, which continued building the Ford Expedition and Navigator.

A worker at Ford’s Livonia Transmission Plant said Wednesday that employees, whose shifts were reduced as part of the collateral damage to the parts supply chain, have been told that all shifts will return to work starting Monday.

Meanwhile, Meridian officials say they’re working as quickly as possible to find a way to build the specialized parts whose production was disrupted by the fire.

“We’re firing up our die-cast machines. We’re trying to meet Ford’s timelines,” said Benjamin Wu, chief legal officer and public affairs director for Meridian Magnesium Products of America.

About one-third of the parts built by Meridian are sold to Ford, company officials confirmed.

“Progress is moving forward quickly at the plant,” Eaton Rapids City Manager Aaron Desentz. “From our standpoint, the company is well on their way to normal operations sooner than previously estimated. This means that many people will be returning to work very soon and disruptions to key supply chains will be short lived.”

Up to 250 people in the small town were out of work because of the fire. 

In the short term, the high-pressure die casting company, which makes parts out of molten magnesium, had coordinated tool and die efforts with its affiliate companies, including Meridian Lightweight Technologies plant in Strathroy, Ontario.

The plant fire also affected production at the Fiat Chrysler plant in Windsor, Ontario, which produces the Chrysler Pacifica minivan and the Dodge Grand Caravan.

FCA spokeswoman Jodi Tinson said the company “continues to balance production” at the Windsor Assembly Plant and has had no production disruptions at any of its other facilities to date.

GM has not restarted production of its full-size vans in Wentzville, Mo., since production was halted a week ago, said GM spokeswoman Kim Carpenter. The Wentzville plant is the only facility that builds the GMC Savana and the Chevrolet Express. Workers have not seen layoffs because they’re producing mid-size trucks.

Mercedes announced Friday the shutdown of its SUV production for an indefinite period of time. No new information was available Wednesday. The German automaker reduced worker shifts because the factory in Vance, Ala., ran out of cockpit crossmembers that hold the dashboard, air-conditioning unit and navigation systems in the GLE, GLE Coupe and GLS.

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