Ford adds production in North America to meet new car demand

Wed May 22, 2013 1:31pm EDT
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By Deepa Seetharaman

DETROIT (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co (F.N: Quote) is adding a week of production at most of its North American factories this year to build an additional 40,000 vehicles and help sustain its gains in U.S. market share.

The second-largest U.S. automaker said on Wednesday that 20 assembly, engine and other plants will be idled for just one week this summer instead of the traditional two-week "summer shutdown" period.

This is the second year in a row that Ford has taken this step. Ford's U.S. rivals, General Motors Co (GM.N: Quote) and Chrysler Group LLC FIA.MI, are also limiting downtime this year.

The capacity boost comes as all three Detroit automakers gain ground in the U.S. auto market, now in its fourth year of recovery after an economic downturn that hurt new vehicle demand and forced GM, Ford and Chrysler to close factories.

Automakers are now running their plants around the clock to meet rising demand for cars. Last year, 14.5 million cars and trucks were sold in the United States, the highest level since 2007, when the industry operated more factories.

Newer models offer better mileage than the average U.S. vehicle, which is a record 11 years old. Growing strength in the U.S. housing market is boosting sales of trucks, like the F-series trucks, analysts and executives say.

"We went from four shifts on F-series to six shifts over the space of about a year," said Jim Tetreault, head of Ford's manufacturing operations in North America. "It's pretty dramatic increase in the demand on the truck side."

The added shifts, coupled with the shorter shutdown period, will help Ford build an additional 240,000 vehicles a year.   Continued...

Workers hang a Ford Motor banner on the side of a building across from Cobo Center in advance of the media preview of the North American International Auto show in Detroit, Michigan January 11, 2013. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook