Employees at Kentucky Truck Plant | Courtesy of Ford Motor Co./Sam VarnHagen

Ford Motor Co. has halted production of the Super Duty at Kentucky Truck Plant because a fire and explosions at a plant in Michigan have disrupted the supply of a critical component.

A union official told Insider that about 2,500 to 3,000 hourly workers at KTP are affected and that at least some of them would have to collect unemployment. Second-shift employees on Tuesday started receiving robocalls from Ford Motor Co. to tell them not to come to work.

The work stoppage is occurring at an inopportune time because of high demand for the Super Duty truck, said John Klefot, benefits representative for the United Auto Workers Local 862, which represents the plant’s 8,400 hourly workers.

Before the interruption, some workers were putting in extra shifts on Saturday evening to fulfill the high number of Super Duty orders, Klefot said.

2018 Ford F-Series Super Duty Limited. | Courtesy of Ford Motor Co.

Ford said in a news release that a May 2 fire and explosion at the Meridian Magnesium Products of America factory in Eaton Rapids, Mich., has caused a shortage of die-cast components and that the company had reduced production of the F-150 and Super Duty at three North American factories.

The automaker said that it is “working with its supply base” to address the parts shortage, but Klefot said that uncertainties remain about the length of the shutdown because the damage at the Eaton Rapids plant is still being assessed.

If the fire damaged critical equipment, including dies, replacing them might take a while.

“It’s not looking good right now,” Klefot said.

A Ford spokeswoman told Insider via email that the situation was “fluid” and that decisions were being made “day by day,” though she did not provide details about the projected length of the shutdown.

Production of the Expedition and Lincoln Navigator at Kentucky Truck Plant is continuing, but the plant primarily makes the Super Duty. Klefot said KTP workers recently were producing about 1,600 Super Duty trucks per day, compared to about 450 Expeditions and Navigators combined.

Klefot said union members who have worked part of the week already and are now getting the robocalls to stay home would receive sub pay, which requires Ford to pay the employees for a 40-hour week. Workers who miss the entire week because of the shutdown would have to collect unemployment, he said.

He urged workers to make sure that the company has their updated contact information so they don’t miss the robocalls.

Ford said that the production shortage would have “an adverse impact on the company’s near-term results,” but the automaker reaffirmed that it expects to generate a profit of $1.45 to $1.70 per share for the full year.

Klefot said that whenever production resumes, workers should prepare for some “serious overtime” and weekend work, because Ford dealers will be clamoring for more Super Duty trucks.

The company had said that in April, dealers on average had a 65 day supply of trucks, down 16 days, or 20 percent, from April 2017.

Boris Ladwig is a reporter with more than 20 years of experience and has won awards from multiple journalism organizations in Indiana and Kentucky for feature series, news, First Amendment/community affairs, nondeadline news, criminal justice, business and investigative reporting. As part of The (Columbus, Indiana) Republic’s staff, he also won the Kent Cooper award, the top honor given by the Associated Press Managing Editors for the best overall news writing in the state. A graduate of Indiana State University, he is a soccer aficionado (Borussia Dortmund and 1. FC Köln), singer and travel enthusiast who has visited countries on five continents. He speaks fluent German, rudimentary French and bits of Spanish, Italian, Khmer and Mandarin.


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