Christina Rogers, The Wall Street Journal
May 08, 2018

Ford MotorCo expects to lay off several thousand workers temporarily at a Michigan factory that assembles its top-selling F-150 pickup truck after a fire last week damaged the premises of a parts supplier, people familiar with the matter said.

The blaze, which occurred Friday at a Michigan plant operated by Meridian Lightweight Technologies, has already disrupted production of Ford’s pickup trucks at a factory in Missouri. Meridian is an automotive-interiors supplier owned by China’s Wanfeng Auto Holding Group, which makes components for Ford and other car makers.

Ford’s F-150 factory in Dearborn, Mich., is expected to run out of Meridian-supplied parts and halt production as early as Wednesday, the people familiar with the matter said. They cautioned that the situation was fluid and final decisions on the exact timing hadn’t been made.

Ford said Monday that its other main F-150 plant, in Kansas City, Mo., would be idled this week because certain parts are in short supply after the fire.

The two plants, which together employ 7,600 people, could face several weeks of down time as the auto maker seeks ways to make up the parts shortfall, the people said.

The F-150 is Ford’s best-selling vehicle and generates the bulk of its global profit. A prolonged shutdown of the plants could dent the company’s second-quarter revenue and profit, said Jamie Albertine, an auto analyst at Consumer Edge Research.

Mr. Albertine estimates the two plants combined produce some 10,000 to 15,000 F-150s a week, citing figures from AutoData Corp. He said Ford dealers should have a few months of inventory in hand to prevent shortages in showrooms, but the company would face cost pressures from paying workers during idle time and while ramping back up to offset lost production.

The fire also disrupted production at a Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles minivan plant in Windsor, Ontario, and a BMW sport-utility factory in South Carolina, those companies said Monday. BMW said Tuesday that production has resumed. A Meridian official said the company is “supporting its customers.”