About 400 workers were laid off this week at Ford Motor Co.’s Oakville, Ont., assembly plant, shortly after the automaker ended production of the Ford Flex there.
The layoffs, which took effect Monday, were announced late last year, and come ahead of negotiations between Unifor and the Detroit 3 automakers later this year. Job security and product commitments figure to be major priorities for the union, while the automakers attempt to navigate slowing sales in a declining North American new-vehicle market.
“Our plant is in desperate need of new product,” said Mark Sciberras, president of Unifor Local 707, which represents the 4,200 hourly workers at the plant. “Hopefully new product brings those people back.”
In an email to Automotive News Canada, Ford spokeswoman Lauren More said the move to end Flex production, alongside the discontinued Lincoln MKT, would allow the automaker to “strengthen [its] focus on products in the heart of the fastest growing segments to meet shifting consumer demands.”
This week’s layoffs were the second at the Oakville plant since 2019. Ford said in July that it would cut around 200 jobs at the plant while slowing production there amid slowing sales. It followed that up in October with an announcement that it would end Flex production and would lay off workers as a result.
Flex and MKT production ended in 2019 amid slow demand for both vehicles in North America. The Flex debuted in 2008, and annual volume peaked the following year in the United States at 38,717 units sold. Ford in the U.S. sold 24,484 Flex units in 2019, according to the Automotive News Data Center in Detroit, making it the lowest-selling light-truck in the Ford brand’s lineup. It sold 2,470 units in Canada.
The MKT, meanwhile, was replaced in Lincoln’s lineup by the Aviator crossover, which is assembled at Ford’s Chicago assembly plant.
Oakville continues to assemble the Ford Edge and Lincoln Nautilus crossovers, which accounted for the bulk of the plant’s production in 2019. The Oakville plant assembled 247,615 vehicles in 2019, up about 4.3 per cent from a year earlier, according to the Data Center. The Flex and MKT accounted for about 11 per cent of all vehicles produced there.