Ford to retool truck plants to build cars

Ford's gas guzzling large trucks and SUVs are leading to the company's demise. And why do Americans buy these big trucks that fuel demand and drive up gas prices? In many cases the driver is alone, so the only real explanation is that sitting up high makes them feel like "big" shots.

Ford Motor Co., long dependent on profits from pickups and sport utility vehicles, is assembling a plan to shift entire truck plants to car production in a bid to keep up with changing consumer demand in the United States, according to sources familiar with the company's plans.

Plant managers and local union leaders from around the country have been summoned to Ford's Dearborn headquarters Friday.

They'll discuss the challenges facing the automaker and the broader U.S. automobile industry as the price of gasoline continues to set record highs and consumers flee pickups and big SUVs for smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles.

In what would be one of the most dramatic manufacturing transformations in Detroit's history, Ford would retool some of its North American plants to produce vehicles being built in Europe, where it is a leader in the small-car segment. Ford also is conducting a thorough review of its entire product pipeline in North America, hoping to accelerate the introduction of new, more fuel-efficient cars and to build more vehicles on fewer platforms.

"The best place to look is Europe," CEO Alan Mulally said recently, acknowledging that it would be too costly for Ford to import cars from across the Atlantic because of unfavorable exchange rates. "We can tailor the production to where we sell them."

Details of the plan are expected to be announced in July. They will likely include major moves like converting Ford's Avon Lake, Ohio, assembly plant from production of the older E-series van to the more modern and fuel-efficient Transit van Ford builds in Europe. But sources familiar with the situation say the company will not reveal the full scope of its manufacturing realignment for several months.

When complete, Ford expects to build more models on fewer platforms than any other automaker — including Toyota Motor Corp., which has made such simplicity a recipe for success. More at Detroit News

[Editor's Note: Talk about not seeing the forest through the trees. Gas prices have been rising for quite some time now, but while Japanese automakers were building more and more fuel efficient cars, Ford (like GM) was riding high on the hog with their big trucks and SUVs. Now, after drowning in dealer lots full of unsold trucks, are they realizing they are in big trouble. So instead of being progressive with foresight, they are being reactionary once again, and losing still more market share. And for this the CEO and board will get paid millions. They should all be fired, every single one of them.]

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