Ford Motor Co. will close assembly plants in Norfolk, VA and St. Paul, MN, in 2008. Ford is closing plants and cutting jobs in an effort to improve results from its North American auto business.
The two plants employ about 4,300 hourly and salaried workers.
''A decision to end production at a plant is not an easy one, and I'm deeply mindful of the impact this decision has on Ford employees, families and communities,'' said Mark Fields, Ford's president of the Americas. ''Unfortunately, these are necessary steps we must take to move the business forward.''
The nation's second-biggest automaker announced in January that it would close 14 plants by 2012, but only identified five of them. It said at the time that it would name two more plants later in the year.
Ford, in a news release announcing the closures, said the staff reductions in Virginia and Minnesota are part of the 25,000 to 30,000 job cuts announced in January.
The Twin Cities assembly plant in St. Paul makes the Ford Ranger compact pickup, which has seen sales decline sharply in recent years. It employs about 1,750 hourly workers and 135 salaried.
The Norfolk facility makes the popular F-150 pickup. It has 2,275 hourly workers and 158 salaried.
''Norfolk has a wonderful history and reputation, but this is part of the total 'Way Forward' turnaround strategy,'' said Anne Stevens, Ford's chief operating officer of the Americas.
Ford said it still would have plenty of capacity for F-series pickups, adding that it is on track to sell more than 900,000 of the trucks for the third year in a row. The company said it would remain the leader in full-size pickup truck sales.
''We are reducing the number of plants, not necessarily production capacity, thanks to our investment in flexible manufacturing,'' Fields said during a conference call with reporters and analysts.
Ford said it expects 82% of its assembly facilities to be flexible, meaning they can shift from one model to another more easily and build several vehicles on the same production line, by 2008. In 2004, 38% of its facilities had that capability.
As for the future of compact pickups, Ford said it would announce its plans closer to the end of production in St. Paul.
The five plants whose closure Ford announced earlier are the St. Louis, Atlanta and Wixom assembly plants, Batavia Transmission, OH, and Windsor Casting, Ontario.
Ford's bigger rival, General Motors Corp., also is in the midst of a major restructuring and plans to close 12 plants by 2008.
Report from the Associated Press