Ford adds more shutdown days for Essex Engine plant due to microchip shortage

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Unifor Local 200 officials confirmed Thursday the semi-conductor microchip shortage will idle Ford’s Essex Engine Plant in Windsor for an additional three days. Ford Motor Company informed Unifor Wednesday night that Essex Engine will now add April 6, 9 and 12 as scheduled down days. The company had previously announced the plant would be idle April 16 due to the chip shortage.

Ford’s other local engine production facility, the Annex Plant, will be unaffected by the shutdowns. “They say it’s so fluid, every day changes,” said Local 200 president John D’Agnolo. “They have a guy just dealing with this and he said it changes every single day how they’re going to work it out.” More shutdowns to the Windsor operations are expected in May.

Ford plans to move its summer shutdown weeks for its U.S. assembly plants from June into May allowing for regularly scheduled maintenance and equipment changes to be completed while the plants are idled by the chip shortage.

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“We’ll be down one of those weeks in May,” said Local 200 vice-president Tim Little. “It might be one week each for the plants or it may just be Essex engine. That’s still being worked out.”

Little added Windsor’s normal summer shutdown weeks, which are the first two weeks of July, could also be impacted. “I honestly think it might be just one week at each plant,” Little said. Little added the Windsor plants have no chips on hand.

Engines are being made without the vital chips in the modules. “The chips will be put in at the production plants where the engines are being used,” Little said. D’Agnolo said the company originally thought the chip shortage would abate over the summer, but Ford CEO Jim Farley has recently said he expects the situation to last until the third quarter of this year.

We don’t even talk about COVID anymore, it’s about microchips

D’Agnolo said the microchip shortage has surpassed COVID-19 as Ford’s biggest challenge.

“This is definitely the worst its been,” D’Agnolo said. “We don’t even talk about COVID anymore, it’s about microchips. “When they start shutting down the F-150 truck plants, those are the moneymakers … this is costing the company billions and we’re losing out on future sales.” D’Agnolo said the Annex Plant has been spared to date because it’s producing the new Godzilla 7.3-litre engine that goes into Ford’s heavy-duty F-series pickups, which are among Ford’s most profitable individual vehicles.

A sign for Ford’s Essex Engine plant in Windsor is shown on March 25, 2021. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star

The additional shutdowns are the result of spate of announcements on plant closures that came from Ford Wednesday.

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The Dearborn truck plant will be idled for the weeks of April 5 and 12 with no overtime scheduled for an addition five weeks spread across April, May and June.

The Kansas City truck/van plant will shut down for a week April 5 and no overtime shifts will be scheduled during nine weeks sprinkled over the next three months. The Oakville assembly plant will be closed for three weeks beginning April 12 while the Louisville, Ky., truck plant is idled for two weeks beginning April 12. Ford’s plant in Chicago will have no overtime shifts the week of April 5 while the Ohio truck/van plant will have no such shifts April 12 and 26.

Windsor’s engine plants supply the production facilities in Dearborn, Kansas City, Louisville and Ohio.

  1. Ford adds more shutdown days for Essex Engine plant due to microchip shortage

    Microchip shortage to idle Windsor Assembly, Essex Engine plants

  2. Ford adds more shutdown days for Essex Engine plant due to microchip shortage

    Global microchip shortage forces Windsor assembly lines to idle

D’Agnolo said the impact of the combination of the chip shortage, COVID-19, a fire at a Japanese microchip factory and the recent blockage of the Suez Canal has the company re-assessing its supply chains to reduce risk.

“In our conversations with them, the talk now is to manufacture the chips in North America,” D’Agnolo said. “We all know Henry Ford believed in building all the parts within. They got away from that.”

Little said he doesn’t see Ford manufacturing the chips itself, but rather investing in firms in North America to become new sources of chips.

“Ford has a lot of companies they already have investments in,” Little said. “I see them investing in those North American companies around them they feel fit their business.

“We see that coming.”