KANSAS CITY — Ford Motor Co. plans to ramp up production of its F-150 pickup trucks at its Kansas City-area assembly plant as truck sales remain a bright spot in the otherwise dreary automotive industry.
Angie Kozleski, a spokeswoman for the Dearborn, Mich.-based company, said Ford will add a second shift to the production of F-150s during the week of Jan. 12. The 800 workers affected are currently one of three shifts making Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner, small sport utility vehicles.
"We are adding a shift back to the truck side and eliminating a shift on the SUV side," Kozleski said.
The decision to boost pickup production comes as Ford, along with other major automakers, is struggling with steep drops in sales caused by the sluggish economy and tight credit. Experts say the economic uncertainty has led consumers to slash spending and those who are looking for a vehicle face tougher hurdles to get financing.
Ford on Tuesday said light truck sales for its namesake Ford brand, Lincoln and Mercury were off 29 percent last month compared with November 2007, while the three brands' car sales were down 32 percent.
But Ford said its market share grew in November, helped by a recovery in its pickup truck segment and demand for the Ford Fusion sedan. Sales of Ford's top-selling F-Series pickups dropped 19 percent, significantly less than most of the automaker's other models, while sales of the Fusion fell 27 percent.
Analysts said a sharp drop in gas prices curbed the decline in truck sales.
Ford already announced in October that it planned to restore in January a third shift at its other F-150 plant in Dearborn, Mich. Those roughly 1,000 workers had been laid off earlier this year as the automaker cut production.
The decision to shift workers at the plant in Claycomo near Kansas City to F-150s is continuing that strategy, Kozleski said.
"Despite the challenges in the market, the full-size pickup remains one of the big sellers in the industry, and we are ensuring we have capacity to meet market demand," she said.