Thursday, July 05, 2007

From this week's LEO:

Ford’s “Way Forward”
Last week, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority approved $66 million in tax incentives for Ford Motor Co. to retool its Kentucky Truck Plant over the next decade. The money, approved by the General Assembly in March, combined with a $105 million investment by Ford, along with wage and other concessions by workers, is part of Ford’s strategic “Way Forward” toward “No Longer Pissing Money Down a Rat Hole.” The company has also fired 40,000 workers recently.

Sounding a bit like he was trying to convince himself, Ford’s President of the Americas Mark Fields told reporters in Detroit, “We really are starting to deliver products that people will want.” (His thought balloon added, “No, seriously.”) The new plan stands in stark contrast to the company’s decade-long program of not delivering products people will want — Ford’s focus on huge trucks and SUVs stands in opposition to Toyota’s attempts to improve fuel economy and offer hybrids that look a little weird, a strategy that has kept the Japanese automaker’s stock rising dramatically.

Kentucky is optimistic about keeping Ford’s remaining 8,000 jobs in the state. With Ford’s investment and Kentucky’s tax incentives, the Chamberlain Lane plant’s future seems secure. Alas, the Louisville Assembly Plant on Grade Lane seems starcrossovered. Ford has not pledged to keep or modernize the plant, which manufactures the Ford Explorer, a now-antique SUV that is being quickly cannibalized by Ford’s own Escape, Edge, Flex and Taurus X crossover vehicles. Rumors have long circulated in the blog-o-mill that the plant won’t survive the next round of Ford cuts, which are expected in ’08 or ’09. Because of the extreme expense in converting a truck plant to one that produces smaller, fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly vehicles, any vehicles produced in either post-modification plant are likely to continue to have the power to haul ass.

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