By: Joann Muller, Forbes Staff
There’s a tradition among U.S. automakers to shut down factories for two weeks in early July for what’s called the model-year changeover — that’s when routine maintenance is performed as production of current vehicles ends and next year’s models begin. During hard times, that summer shutdown has often been extended for weeks or even months at some factories.
Not this year.
Pent-up demand for new vehicles, along with a rebounding economy and a surging stock market, is bringing car buyers out in droves. On Wednesday, Ford Motor said it will add an additional 200,000 units of annual capacity this year — almost the equivalent of opening another assembly plant in North America. The extra capacity at factories in Chicago, Flat Rock, Mich., and Kansas City will enable Ford to crank out more Explorer SUVs, Fusion sedans and F-Series pickups. Ford had already announced the addition of a third shift at its Kansas City assembly plant, where the F-series is built. About 75 percent of Ford’s plants are now running at more than two shifts a day to keep up with increased demand.
Meanwhile, certain plants will take a shorter summer break this year, enabling the company to produce an extra 40,000 units.
This is the second year in a row Ford has taken action in order to meet strong demand for its products. Last year, it added 400,000 units of straight-time capacity.
Ford plans to add nearly 3,500 hourly jobs in 2013. With its latest announcement of more than 2,000 new jobs at Kansas City Assembly Plant, as well as more than 1,400 new jobs at Flat Rock Assembly Plant, Ford is three-quarters of the way to its plan to create 12,000 hourly jobs in the United States by 2015. The company hired more than 8,000 salaried and hourly employees in the U.S. last year.