Coleman Fights for Saint Paul’s Ford Plant

Ford Motor Company's Twin Cities Assembly Plant is located next to the Mississippi River in the Highland Park neighborhood of St. Paul, Minnesota.  A part of Saint Paul’s history since it was first built in 1924, it is the oldest Ford plant still in operation. Today, the plant manufactures the Ford Ranger pickup truck and the similar Mazda B-Series.  However, as automakers cut back production of large sport-utility vehicles and pickups, the 138-acre Ford plant is scheduled to close in September 2009.  The plant employs nearly 2,000 people from all over the Twin Cities area.

Minnesota Republican Sen. Norm Coleman has called on the Ford Motor Co. to reexamine its decision to close the plant, noting that Ranger pickup sales increased during the first five months of this year compared with the same period of 2007.  The overall increase occurred despite a drop in May.

The former St. Paul mayor wrote a letter to Ford Chief Executive Alan Mulally which said that "Sales of the Ford Ranger are proving that folks want fuel-efficient vehicles.  The Ranger is one of the most cost-effective vehicles in its class, and it is my hope that Ford will reexamine the potential of this plant in light of increased demand."

Coleman's request, which was simply the latest in a series of requests from Minnesota leaders and politicians, comes as gasoline tops $4 a gallon in many markets. Like other automakers, Ford has been responding to the record fuel prices by churning out more popular, fuel-efficient models.  The Ranger, which has been made at the Twin Cities plant since 1992, is rated at 21 miles per gallon city and 26 mpg highway by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  While that's better than many large pickups, some say it's not quite the type of mileage consumers are looking for currently.

Ford announced this week that sales of the Ranger had dropped in May, reversing months of strong sales. But company officials noted that last month's falloff could be the result of limited inventory.

A Ford spokesperson reported that the company "welcomes the interest," but that previously announced plans to close the plant have not changed.  Ford isn’t the only company making cutbacks, though.  General Motors Corp. and Chrysler also have announced plans to close factories that build pickups and SUVs, and the Hummer brand reportedly is for sale.

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