JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Ford Motor Co. plans to stop making the Escape in Missouri by the end of next year and shift production of its next-generation sport utility vehicle to Kentucky, a union president said Tuesday.
Ford has indicated its suburban Kansas City plant could receive a new product, if Missouri were to enact new tax incentives for the company, said Jeff Wright, president of the United Auto Workers Local 249.
A special legislative session is to begin Thursday to consider a bill offering up to $15 million annually for manufacturers who retain jobs by making factory improvements for new products. To offset the cost of the incentives, lawmakers also are to consider a measure requiring new state employees to contribute toward their pension funds.
Ford spokesman John Stoll said Tuesday that the company supports Missouri's proposed incentives. But he declined to comment about Ford's plans for the Escape or its Claycomo assembly plant near Kansas City.
Ford has said it will begin building a vehicle at the Louisville plant based on its compact-car underpinnings, which could support small SUVs.
The Claycomo plant, which employs about 3,700 people, currently makes the Escape, its twin Mercury Mariner and the F-150 pickup truck. Ford is phasing out the Mercury brand, including the Mariner, by the end of this year.
Wright said the last Ford Escape will roll off the Claycomo assemble plant around November or December 2011 and that production of a new version of the sport utility vehicle then would shift to Louisville.
“The Escape's already gone, they've already announced that, and I think if they haven't already started to retool Louisville, Ky., it's close,” Wright said. “What we're looking for is a new product.”
Wright made his comments during a conference call Tuesday announcing that dozens of businesses, economic development groups and union workers had formed a coalition supporting the Missouri incentive legislation. Participants in the Missouri Manufacturing Works coalition said losing jobs at the Claycomo factory would send negative ripples through the local and state economies.
“If we don't pass this, we're not competing at all,” said Ray McCarty, president of the Associated Industries of Missouri. “We don't have anything in our tool box right now to help attract those new product lines.”