Ford to add 7,000 U.S. jobs; hiring plans signal accelerated turnaround of Detroit’s auto industry

Ford to add 7,000 U.S. jobs

Ford Motor Co., announced today it is adding more than 7,000 jobs in the United States over the next two years.

That includes 4,000 blue-collar jobs and 750 salaried positions in 2011, plus another 2,500 factory jobs in 2012. Mark Fields, Ford’s president of the Americas, will make the announcement at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, which opens to automotive journalists today.

The hiring plans signal an accelerating turnaround of Detroit’s auto industry after its worst downturn in decades. Following years of cutting staff and closing plants, Detroit’s Big Three are hiring amid a fledgling recovery in U.S. auto sales and growing demand for their products.

General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC have announced plans to add thousands of workers and engineers, bringing hope to hard-hit southeast Michigan, which has one of the country’s highest jobless rates.

Ford and GM were solidly profitable last year, and Chrysler made money on an operating basis. Ford’s stock is rising, as is GM’s after a successful initial public offering in November, just over a year after the company emerged from bankruptcy.

Ford, GM and Chrysler said in October that they would invest a combined $2 billion in their Michigan operations, adding as many as 2,250 jobs and retaining thousands more over the next couple of years.

A month later, GM and Chrysler each said they also planned to add 2,000 engineering jobs over the next two years, most in Metro Detroit.

GM says that since its emergence from bankruptcy in July 2009, it has outlined more than $3.8 billion in investments in the United States and Canada that will create or restore more than 11,500 jobs. Just over 8,000 will be in the United States.

Auto suppliers, too, are adding research and development staff after making deep cuts in their work force during the economic downturn.

Automakers stronger

The new factory jobs will make up for only a fraction of the tens of thousands of auto jobs lost in recent years. And they won’t be as highly paid. New plant workers will come in at “second-tier” wages of $14-$15 per hour.

The UAW, to help U.S. automakers become more competitive with foreign rivals on labor costs, agreed that new workers would be paid half as much as veteran employees.

The jobs announcement comes on the heels of a strong 2010 for Ford. Its U.S. sales rose 19.5 percent to give the automaker a 16.7 percent market share, up from 15.5 percent in 2009.

Ford, which has posted six straight quarterly profits, is expected to report strong results for last year’s fourth quarter, helped by rising sales and vehicle prices.

GM and Chrysler also are recovering after shedding debt, slashing costs and eliminating dealers in bankruptcy.

For the first time in seven years, Detroit’s automakers collectively gained market share in 2010, claiming 45.1 percent of U.S. car and truck sales, up from 44.2 percent in 2009.

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