Ford has announced the end of Focus and C-Max production at the Michigan Assembly plant in 2018. The change coincides with a 2018 model-year redesign for both vehicles, suggesting that the next-gen Focus and C-Max will be built at another plant. Ford did not announce what vehicle might go into the plant to replace the Focus and C-Max.

With UAW talks scheduled to begin on July 23, it seems unlikely that Ford will shutter the factory and idle over 4,000 workers. The plant’s third shift has been cut, and some jobs have been trimmed, but the Michigan Assembly plant is also one of the few Ford plants that boasts excess capacity. Ford has also said that it has no plans to close the factory. Automotive News reports that this could be part of a plan to shift Fiesta production to Thailand and move all Focus production to Ford’s Cuautitlan, Mexico plant.

The 2015 Ford Focus is currently produced in nine plants worldwide, and sells over a million units annually worldwide. In North America, however, Focus and C-Max sales are down during the first half of 2015. Lower gas prices have been cutting into demand for small cars and hybrids, which is taking a bite out of sales.

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Why it matters

The Michigan Assembly plant has a long history with Ford. First opened in 1957, the plant was for many years the Bronco’s home factory, as well as a producer of the F-Series, Expedition and Navigator. In 2008 the plant was converted to Focus production, and it underwent a $550 million upgrade in 2010. The renovation included the ability to produce battery-powered and hybrid vehicles, as well as the addition of an environmentally friendly solar panel system. The Detroit Free Press speculates that Ford could be planning to use the plant for additional capacity to produce the 2014 Ford Escape crossover, the hot-selling 2014 Ford Transit Connect (which is currently imported from Europe), or an upcoming compact Lincoln.

The shift cut in April affected about 700 workers and went into effect just a few weeks ago. Ford cited declining sales as the reason. With a number of other manufacturers moving production to Mexico as well, analysts are also considering that this may be a strongarm tactic to give Ford an advantage in the upcoming UAW talks.

2015 Ford Focus

2015 Ford Focus High Resolution Exterior
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Source: Automotive News

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