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June 19, 2003

CANADA: Ford says announcement on Oakville production plans months away despite newspaper story – report

Ford on Wednesday said it is months away from making any announcement on long-term production plans for its Canadian manufacturing facilities, despite reports it is planning to build two new models of sport utility vehicles at its Oakville, Ontario, site, Reuters reported.

By bcusack

Ford on Wednesday said it is months away from making any announcement on long-term production plans for its Canadian manufacturing facilities, despite reports it is planning to build two new models of sport utility vehicles at its Oakville, Ontario, site, Reuters reported.

“We have not confirmed the products for Oakville and we won’t until we finalise our business plan,” Ford of Canada spokesman John Arnone told the news agency.

Arnone reportedly said the long-term plan for the sprawling plant just west of Toronto will not be ready until the end of this year to be presented to various levels of government.

The company, Arnone told Reuters, is seeking a financial involvement of at least 20% from government in terms of capital expenditures, infrastructure and training.

According to Reuters, the Globe and Mail newspaper, citing industry sources in Canada and the United States, on Wednesday said Ford will begin production of about 200,000 units a year dubbed U387 and U388 at its Oakville plant in August, 2006. Production of the two models had originally been slated for a plant in Atlanta.

Other plans for the plant, according to the national daily, include redesigning the Ford Freestar and Monterey minivans built at the assembly plant for the 2008 model so they can be built on the same underbody platform, and converting the neighbouring truck plant, which is scheduled to end production next year, into a body shop for the assembly plant.

New production targets of 350,000 units a year at Oakville would likely mean the addition of a third shift, the newspaper said, according to Reuters.

“What you see in today’s story is an attempt to name those products before they are even a part of our business case, and so we are unable to confirm what those products will be and are not in the habit of describing future product plans or manufacturing plans,” Arnone told Reuters.

But Arnone confirmed to the news agency that Ford is studying the idea of flexible manufacturing, first proposed in contract talks with the Canadian Auto Workers union last year. This would give the company the ability to produce more than one product on the same assembly line.

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