Production on most of Ford’s F-Series trucks has been suspended following a major fire at a Michigan parts supplier that deals with several OEMs.
However, despite the temporary shutdown, Ford told reporters during a press conference call that its truck inventory is large enough that sales will not be affected by last week’s blaze at Meridian Magnesium Products of America’s plant in Eaton Rapids, Michigan.
“It’s very important to note that we have healthy inventories—very strong inventories of our key vehicles on dealer lots presently, including of course our best-selling F-Series pickup trucks,” said Joe Hinrichs, executive vice president and president of Global Operations. “Customers will not have trouble finding the F-Series that best meets their needs. We have an 84-day supply currently of F-Series trucks.”
Last Wednesday’s fire at Meridian began in an area where magnesium scraps are placed on a conveyor to be melted down for reuse. Two people were injured during the fire at the 208,000 square foot plant which employs roughly 400 people.
Thirty percent of plant production is dedicated to Ford parts, while the remaining 70 percent is for other OEMs, including FCA and GM which is also facing production issues caused by the fire for the Chrysler Pacifica minivan (FCA), GMC Savana and Chevy Express full-size vans, according to detroitnews.com.
The fire affected production on three Ford parts: a front bolster used to structurally support the front of the engine compartment in the F-150, Super Duty, Expedition and Navigator; a third-row seat cushion pan used in the Ford Flex and Lincoln MKT; and a liftgate component used in the MKT.
Ongoing questions regarding vehicle production and financial impact prompted the press conference, which was announced in an email just shortly before it began at 5 p.m. Eastern.
“Regarding our F-150 production, our Kansas City assembly plant truck side is down. The Transit side continues to build. Our Dearborn truck plant will end production at the end of the afternoon shift today,” Hinrichs said. “For Super Duty truck production, we are not building these trucks currently at the Kentucky truck plant, but the Ohio assembly plant is continuing to build Super Duty. For Expedition and Navigator we continue building both these products at Kentucky truck plant. For Explorer, we continue building at Chicago assembly plant.”
Hau Thai-Tang, Ford’s executive vice president of product development and purchasing, said that none of Ford’s 19 sets of casting dies used in parts production at Meridian were damaged by the blaze.
“Our goal is to get all of the tools and dies back up and running and repair the supply chain quickly as possible,” Thai-Thang said. “I just want to reiterate one more time: our tools, for all of our affected programs, are usable now and are fully production-ready once the casting process comes on line. But as you can imagine it does take a bit of time to get this industrialization up and running because of the high temperatures required for the furnace to provide the raw feedstock for the castings.”
Thai-Thang said Ford has been working with Meridian and Walbridge Construction to develop a plan for resuming production.
“We’ll continue to work with all of our partners to execute this plan both at the Eaton Rapids Meridian site as well as at backup sites that we were able to secure,” he said.
When pressed for a time on returning to full production at Meridian, Henrichs replied: “It’s hard to say. I know people want more crystallized answers. I think it’s safe to say that we’re going to see an impact for several days, but we can’t say beyond that. Hau and the team are working with our supply base to get things back and up running. It will take a few days to make that happen, but we can’t say anything beyond that because we’re working the plan every hour.”