When the 2007 model of the Ford Ranger started rolling off the production lines in St. Paul last week — a few months earlier than normal — it caught workers’ attention.
The Ford Motor Co.’s Ranger plant is to shut down for good in 2008. Some workers are worried that the early start on the 2007 Ranger means production will stay ahead of schedule and the plant might close sooner than 2008.
Production of the next year’s model typically begins in August, allowing models to roll into showrooms by September. McKenzie, president of United Auto Workers Local 879, said there are a few changes on the new 2007 Ranger but "nothing major."
Ford announced April 13 that the St. Paul assembly plant — the only facility that makes the Ranger sold in North America — would close in 2008. Sales of the small pickup truck have dropped precipitously in recent years and the St. Paul plant operates well below its capacity.
As the 2008 closing date approaches, "we’ll definitely communicate to employees as we have more facts," said Anne Marie Gattari, a spokeswoman for Ford Motor Co.
The company has said it plans to build a 2008-model Ranger, but has made no commitment to the plant beyond the second quarter of 2008, he said. Local 879 represents more than 1,700 production employees at the plant in the Highland Park neighborhood.