Car Industry

Ford F-150 production slowed by parts shortage due to supplier fire

Production of Ford's best-selling vehicle has stopped at its Kansas City plant, and may cease in Dearborn as well.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

When Ford redesigned the F-150 a few years ago, it went all-in on using more exotic materials in an effort to lighten it up. Most of the hubbub was made over the use of aluminum (al-u-mini-um for our friends in the UK) in the bed and body, but the Blue Oval managed to sneak some magnesium into the truck, too, while nobody was looking.

Unfortunately, magnesium has some less-than-ideal properties when exposed to lots of heat; namely, it burns. It burns white-hot and is difficult to extinguish, which is something that Ford supplier Meridian Magnesium Products experienced recently when it suffered a major fire that has resulted in a stoppage of F-150 production.

The F-150 is made of all kinds of fancy, lightweight materials like aluminum and magnesium, and it's the magnesium that's causing problems with production.

Emme Hall/Roadshow

In addition to the lack of sweet, sweet F-150 trucks rolling off the line, the big bummer about the stoppage is that it means that 3,600 workers at Ford's Kansas City plant are being furloughed while the parts shortage is sorted out. Ford has announced that it will be stopping production at the Dearborn truck plant as of Wednesday night. Ford has enough of the die-cast magnesium parts on the shelf to keep production running at Dearborn through Thursday of this week, according to a letter from the plant's union chief received by employees, but clearly other concerns warrant stoppage.

The letter continues: "The company is meeting continuously to find a solution to replace and manufacturer [sic] parts that were lost due to the fire at Meridian. According to the company, at some point, we will have an interruption in production. At this time, the company doesn't know for sure when or for how long we will be down. As a result of the fire, there is a great deal of uncertainty in our production schedule at DTP. Adjustments and changes are being made hour by hour as the company is engaged in getting the parts needed to maintain our normal production schedule."

From a business standpoint for Ford, a disruption in the production of its best-selling vehicle could seriously affect the bottom line for the second quarter, something that is particularly concerning given all of the recent changes at the company.

The Meridian fire also caused stoppages on the Ford Super Duty lines in Kentucky and Ohio as well as the Chrysler Pacifica line in Windsor, Ontario. The Super Duty plants haven't reported any layoffs, which is good.

The Meridian fire, which occurred on May 2, has been described by local officials as the worst fire in Eaton Rapids in the last 40 years. The cause of the fire is unknown, but despite the damage to the 200,000-plus square-foot facility, only two people were injured.

Update 5/9 5:03 P.M.: Updated to include latest news regarding Ford's shutdown of the F-150 line at the Dearborn truck plant.

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