A Ford worker rethinks a buyout
January 25, 2007
By ROBERT SCHOENBERGER
Joe Bryan turned down the opportunity to leave Ford Motor Co.'s Louisville
Assembly Plant last year.
After seeing his employer lose $12.7 billion, he's not sure that passing up
early retirement was the best choice.
"I was going to wait until I hit my 30" years of service, said Bryan, a
29-year-veteran of the Fern Valley Road plant that makes Explorer
sport-utility vehicles. Now he's worried about whether his retirement is
Despite the massive financial loss, Ford was upbeat about its financial
performance. Ford expects to lose money this year, but Ford Chief Executive
Officer Alan Mulally said losses should be lower as the company's
restructuring plan moves forward.
The company ended the year with more than $33 billion in cash because of
finance deals arranged last year. That gives Ford room to lose money this
year and next year as it restructures.
Huge losses were expected as sales of profitable trucks and SUVs plummeted
and as the company worked through its restructuring plan that calls for the
elimination of 16 plants and about 45,000 jobs.
Last year, Ford spent about $4.7 billion to pay early retirement packages
and buyouts to employees. A massive buyout plan offered to all hourly
workers goes into effect this year, so restructuring costs will likely be
high in 2007 as well.
"We began aggressive actions in 2006 to restructure our automotive business
so we can operate profitably at lower volumes and with a product mix that
better reflects consumer demand for smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles,"
Mulally said in a news release. "We fully recognize our business reality and
are dealing with it. We have a plan and we are on track to deliver."
The changing product mix refers to poor sales of trucks and SUVs as buyers
turn to more fuel-efficient options.
"It's the SUVs that are killing us," Bryan said. "They had too much invested
That shift has been felt especially hard in Louisville. In addition to the
Explorer and Louisville Assembly, Ford makes F-Series Super Duty trucks at
the Kentucky Truck Plant on Chamberlain Lane.
Both plants had several down weeks last year. The truck plant restructured
its shift schedule to eliminate overtime and the SUV plant is scheduled to
run its lines slower, a move that will cut jobs.
"If you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without
bloodshed,if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not
too costly,you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with
all the odds against you and only a small chance of survival.There may
even be a worse case;you may have to fight when there is no hope of
victory,because it is better to perish than to live as slaves."