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Ford F-Series production halted amid parts shortage

Sven Gustafson

Ford Motor Co. says it will halt production of its top-selling F-150 and Super Duty pickup trucks at several of its U.S. plants where they are built following a fire at a plant in Michigan that produces instrument panels.

The Detroit Free Press reports the truck side of Ford's Kansas City (Mo.) Assembly Plant shut down this week because of the parts shortage, idling about 3,600 workers, with no date set for reopening it. Ford is mulling whether to shut down the Dearborn Truck Plant in Michigan, which employs 4,000 workers. "It is a very fluid situation," Ford spokeswoman Kelli Felker told the Freep.

Production of Super Duty trucks has reportedly been halted at Kentucky Truck and Ohio Assembly, though no workers have been sent home because the plants both build other vehicles.

It's believed that Ford has enough stock to weather the stoppage, with an 84-day supply of F-Series pickups at the end of April, Automotive News reports, so a production stoppage would have to last for many weeks to eat away at that inventory surplus. The automaker is working hard to find a source of replacement parts, and parts supplier Meridian Magnesium is moving dies to other facilities, including one in Ontario, Canada.

The F-Series pickups are the best-selling vehicle in the United States and generate most of Ford's profits. Ford has sold 287,295 of them though April, according to CarSalesBase.com, up 4 percent over the same period in 2017.

The fire, which also triggered several explosions, took place May 2 at Meridian Magnesium Products of America's plant in Eaton Rapids, Mich., near Lansing, injuring two workers. The plant employs more than 400 workers and is the city's largest employer. Parts of the 208,000 square-foot building remain open, but layoffs are believed to be possible. A cause is still unknown.

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It's also disrupted production at several other North American automotive plants. One is Fiat-Chrysler's plant in Windsor, Ontario, that produces the Chrysler Pacifica minivan and the Dodge Grand Caravan. An FCA spokeswoman tells the Freep the company "is adjusting production schedules as needed to minimize plant downtime, but will make up any lost production."

Automotive News also reports that Mercedes-Benz has canceled production shifts in certain areas of its plant in Vance, Ala., in light of a shortage of cockpit components, while BMW said production of its X5 crossover was briefly affected.

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