NATIONAL NEWS

Ford CEO says company will rethink where it builds vehicles after last year’s autoworkers strike

Feb 15, 2024, 7:37 AM

DETROIT (AP) — Last fall’s contentious United Auto Workers’ strike changed Ford’s relationship with the union to the point where it will “think carefully” about where it builds future vehicles, Ford’s top executive said Thursday.

CEO Jim Farley told the Wolfe Research Global Auto Conference in New York that the company always took pride in its relationship with the UAW, having avoided strikes since the 1970s.

But last year, Ford’s highly profitable factory in Louisville, Kentucky, was the first truck plant that the UAW shut down with a strike.

Farley said as the company looks at the transition from internal combustion to electric vehicles, “we have to think carefully about our (manufacturing) footprint.”

Ford, Farley said, decided to build all of its highly profitable big pickup trucks in the U.S., and by far has the most union members — 57,000 — of any Detroit automaker. This came at a higher cost than competitors, who went through bankruptcy and built truck plants in Mexico, he said. But Ford thought it was the “right kind of cost,” Farley said.

“Our reliance on the UAW turned out to be we were the first truck plant to be shut down,” Farley told the conference. “Really our relationship has changed. It’s been a watershed moment for the company. Does this have business impact? Yes.”

The UAW made strong wage gains after a six-week strike at selected plants run by Ford, General Motors and Jeep maker Stellantis. Top-scale factory workers won 33% raises in a contract that runs through April of 2028, taking their top wage to around $42 per hour.

A message was left Thursday seeking comment from the union.

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Ford CEO says company will rethink where it builds vehicles after last year’s autoworkers strike