Ford Hires 5,200 in Plants, Pushes Utilitization to 114%

Ford Motor Co., the second-largest U.S. automaker, has added about 5,200 jobs this year in its U.S. factories, and its North American plants are operating at 114 percent of capacity, the highest in more than three decades.

“Our manufacturing costs have gone down this year,” Jim Tetreault, Ford’s vice president of North American manufacturing, told reporters today at a factory in Wayne, Michigan. “Two things are driving that, capacity utilization and entry-level workers. No question, those two things have lowered our costs.”

Ford’s contract with the United Auto Workers allows the automaker to pay new hires about $16 an hour, less than 60 percent of what veteran workers receive. Ford has added about 4,800 of those entry-level workers to its payroll this year, said Todd Nissen, a company spokesman. The remainder of the new jobs went to workers transferring from other Ford factories or coming out of the “jobs bank” of employees who didn’t have job assignments. Ford’s jobs bank is now empty, Tetreault said.

Ford’s is running its factories at their highest level of utilization in Tetreault’s career at the automaker, which spans more than 30 years, he said. Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford has added third shifts of workers at five North American assembly plants.

Ford is adding a shift of 1,200 workers at its Flat Rock, Michigan, factory next year. Asked if Ford will need more workers and capacity as U.S. auto sales grow, Tetreault said: “Stay tuned.”

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