Ford Motor Co. has temporarily laid off 130 workers at its plant in Avon Lake, Ohio — jobs it had hoped to preserve by moving production there from Mexico in 2015. The automaker is taking the truck plant down to one shift to match lagging output with slower customer demand, a spokeswoman said in an emailed statement. The layoffs extend a pattern of widespread shutdowns planned for the summer as carmakers adjust to the U.S. auto market’s recent slowdown following seven years of gains, even as President Donald Trump paints a more upbeat picture.
“Even though incentives are up, you’re seeing some production being taken out,” Mark Wakefield, managing director and head of the automotive practice at consultant AlixPartners, said in an interview this week. “That shows some people are not assuming this is a speed bump or a plateau and there’s things to be adjusted.”
The layoffs mark a turnaround for Ford, which had moved production of its commercial F-650 and F-750 trucks from Mexico to Ohio and used the decision to deflect criticism from Trump during the campaign, when he sharply criticized the automaker’s decision to move production south of the border. Ford has since announced it has scrapped plans for the $1.6 billion small-car Mexico facility and will build the Focus compact in an existing plant there.
The laid-off employees are expected to return to work this fall when Ford begins building redesigned versions of the models, the spokeswoman said.
When Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford said in 2014 that it was bringing the trucks back to the U.S., demand for the large commercial vehicles was booming. The automaker began building F-650s and F-750s — think dump trucks, tow trucks and furniture vans — at the factory near Cleveland after a joint venture in Mexico with Navistar International Corp. disbanded. Ford invested $168 million in the plant at the time to convert it from making Econoline vans to commercial trucks.
Sales of Ford’s heavy trucks fell 20.2 percent last month and are down 10.7 percent this year to 5,016 vehicles, the company said this week.