Ford Motor Company’s Oakville, Ontario assembly plant will soon see a reduction in manpower, according to the union representing Canadian Detroit Three autoworkers. The looming changes represent the latest blow to that country’s fragile car building presence.
For Ford, the cuts outlined by Unifor Local 7070 president Dave Thomas in a web post this week are an inevitable consequence of evolving lineups and consumer tastes. The company can’t build the Ford Flex forever.
According to Thomas, the Oakville plant, which builds the Flex, Edge, Lincoln MKT, and Lincoln Nautilus crossovers, will see its third paint shop shift culled, along with a production reduction of five vehicles per hour. More workforce cuts could be forthcoming in September, Thomas said, to the tune of 185 workers. That’s a company estimate, with the layoffs categorized as “permanent.”
More reductions loom on the horizon in January, he added.
“We have been arguing as a Local for the past several weeks trying to persuade the company from somehow avoiding this scenario but to no avail,” Thomas wrote. “As always, it’s based on a business decision and it all comes down to dollars and cents. Once again, our biggest concern was preserving good paying jobs and uprooting people’s lives.”
If you’ve been paying attention, new vehicle sales aren’t what they once were, both north and south of the border. On a year over year basis, auto sales have fallen each month this year in the United States, with Canada posting a 16th consecutive monthly sales loss at the end of June.
In a message to Automotive News, Ford stated it has “a long-standing practice of matching production with consumer demand.”
“As a result, we are making changes to the operating pattern,” the automaker added.
Which isn’t to say no one’s buying the Edge, Flex, MKT, or Nautilus. Far from it. The aging, boxy Flex, which enters the afterlife come 2020, saw its U.S. sales rise 25.8 percent in the first half of 2019. The livery darling MKT, which garners most of its sales from fleet operators, will continue in fleet-only production after the midsize Lincoln Aviator hits showrooms this summer. Sales of the admittedly low-volume three-row crossover rose 100.3 percent over the first half of the year.
The Nautilus, formerly the MKX, seemed to benefit from its recent name (and grille) change, with this year’s tally up nearly 3,000 units in the U.S. Only the Edge, which also underwent a refresh for 2019, saw its American numbers drop. The midsizer’s U.S. volume fell 5.6 percent through the end of June.
While the Oakville cuts wouldn’t earn much press in the U.S., the past several months has seen significant workforce reductions north of the border, especially when taking into consideration the industry’s vastly smaller manufacturing footprint. Fiat Chrysler recently announced a shift reduction at its Windsor minivan plant and General Motors plans to cease vehicle production at Oshawa Assembly by the end of the year.