LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Ford Motor Co. said Monday it will cut one of two production shifts at its Louisville Assembly Plant this summer to offset declining demand for its Explorer sport utility vehicle.
Up to 800 workers could be laid off as a result of the shift reduction, depending on how many employees accept the company's buyout offer, said Ford spokeswoman Anne Marie Gattari.
About 2,200 people currently work at the Louisville plant, which
produces the Ford Explorer, Explorer Sport Trac and Mercury Mountaineer vehicles.
"In order for us to turn our business around, we need to make some very difficult short-term decisions, and that's what we're doing right now," Gattari said in a telephone interview.
Ford's decision to cut its shifts in half at the Louisville plant is part of a larger production realignment. Ford said it also will cut shifts at factories in Chicago and Cleveland.
The shift reductions will not affect Ford's truck plant in Louisville.
Jackie Spitser, an assembly line worker at Louisville Assembly Plant, said he wasn't surprised by the cutback. He blamed high prices and a sluggish economy, rather than Ford management, for the reductions.
"The economy is so rough right now - people not spending," he said. "I don't really think it's their fault. It's the way everything is right now. It's shaky ground for everyone."
Gattari didn't say how long the shift reduction would last at Louisville.
"It depends on so many factors, one of them is of course demand for the product," she said.
She said the Louisville plant has been affected by lower demand for sport utility vehicles due to high gas prices. U.S. Explorer sales were down 23 percent in 2007 to 137,813.
Ford remains committed to making new investments in the Louisville Assembly Plant, Gattari said. The automaker pledged to put in a new body shop and a new product line at the plant as part of its collective bargaining agreement last year with the United Auto Workers.
Ford has not said what new vehicle will be produced at the Louisville plant.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)