Ford Motor Co.’s Oakville, Ont., assembly plant is expected to be down one-to-two weeks per month through August amid the global microchip shortage, according to AutoForecast Solutions LLC.
“The information we have received tells the story that there is an issue supplying chips for the vehicles in Oakville,” wrote Sam Fiorani, AutoForecast Solutions vice-president of global vehicle forecasting, in an email. “Losing as much volume of the Edge and [Lincoln] Nautilus as Ford expects to lose, it will be very difficult to recover those units this year.”
AutoForecast Solutions estimated an impact of 33,141 units at Oakville over the course of the year. That would represent about 23 per cent of Oakville Assembly’s total output in 2020 and about 13 per cent of 2019 production, according to the Automotive News Research and Data Center.
The plant is shut down this week but is expected to go back online on March 8. The plant was also closed the week of Feb. 22 due to a parts shortage caused by extreme weather conditions in the United States and has only ran production for 10 days this year, according to Unifor Local 707 President Mark Sciberras.
“We’ve announced the downtime we’ve currently planned,” Ford spokeswoman Kelli Felker said in a statement.
Sciberras, whose local represents 3,400 hourly workers at Oakville Assembly, said there were no plans for intermediate shutdowns and that the plant might work overtime after it is back online to “catch up” on orders.
But “with this environment, you don’t know what’s going to happen from one day to the next,” he said. “Could we have surprise layoffs in between all of that? Sure, because that’s the nature of the times we live in right now.”
Oakville Assembly is among the plants that appear to be most impacted by the global microchip shortage, which has forced automakers worldwide to curb production. AutoForecast Solutions estimates that just three plants globally — General Motors’ Gravatai, Brazil, plant, Volkswagen’s Wolfsburg, Germany, facility and Stellantis’ Toluca, Mexico, factory — would see a greater impact on production volume over the course of the year than Oakville.
Fiorani suggested that automakers could be using the microchip shortage as a way to rein in supply of certain vehicles.
“With so many plants, in North America and around the world, being affected by this semiconductor shortage, it would be very easy to curb production under the guise of a ‘lack of parts,’ just to keep inventory levels in check,” he said. “So many plants have lost a week or two [of production], but few have been hampered by the lack of semiconductors for extended periods of time, which can put into question the actual reason for the shutdown.”
Ford had 72 days of Edge supply in the United States on Feb. 1, up from 61 days on Jan. 1, according to the Automotive News Research and Data Center. Nautilus inventory stood at 79 days, compared with 78 on Jan. 1. As a whole, the company had 70 days of U.S. supply on hand at the start of February, up from 57 days in January.
The Edge and Nautilus crossovers accounted for 146,595 combined sales in the United States and Canada in 2020. The mass-market Edge, the company’s fifth-highest selling light truck in both markets, made up the bulk of those sales.