DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. said Thursday that it would add a third shift to production plants in Michigan and Missouri to meet increased demand for its F-150 trucks and Escape crossover vehicles.
The moves offer specifics about Ford's plan to increase production of cars and trucks in the fourth quarter by 33 percent over 2008 levels to a total of 570,000 vehicles.
Ford is gaining market share in the U.S. and two of its vehicles — the Focus and Escape — were among the top-sellers under the government's Cash for Clunkers program in July and August.
The Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker said earlier this month that it would increase production to replenish inventories depleted during the clunkers program, although it expects September sales to fall below July and August levels.
Ford said it would not hire new hourly workers to handle the shifts, but would move workers from the truck production line at its Kansas City Assembly Plant to the line that makes 5-passenger Ford Escapes and Mercury Mariners crossover utility vehicles.
The change takes place at the Claycomo, Mo., plant in October. Ford employs a total of 3,956 hourly workers there, who previously agreed to work two days during a planned shutdown week this month to meet third-quarter production demands.
The company said its third-quarter production levels would be 18 percent higher than they were a year ago.
Ford's Dearborn Truck Plant will resume maximum operation of three shifts in late September. While there are currently three separate crews at the plant, they work on a rotating basis. Each crew works for four weeks and is then on "layoff" for two weeks, said Ford spokeswoman Marcey Evans.
The move will enable all 2,800 employees at Dearborn Truck to work on a full-time basis, removing 900 people from Michigan's weekly unemployment rolls. Ford supplements those unemployment payments so workers receive their full wage.
"This is a way for us to run our plants much more efficiently to get the increased production out," Evans said.
The moves will result in the additional production of 10,000 F-150 pickup trucks this year and 2,400 Escapes and Mariners by the end of October, Ford said.
The company had a 21-day supply of Escapes in early August. At the end of July, Ford had nearly 300,000 vehicles in stock, or an industry average 48-day supply, according to Ward's AutoInfoBank. Ford typically maintained a 70-day supply of vehicles earlier this year.
Ford is expected to report a year-over-year increase in August U.S. sales next week. The company said it is on track to "post its highest monthly F-Series and Escape sales of 2009" in August.
Shares of Ford rose 9 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $7.70 in afternoon trading Thursday.