Release time : 2015-06-12 09:54:38
The Timken Company (USA; NYSE: TKR) Altavista bearing plant is continuing to experience slow demand, triggering ever more layoffs and slowdowns.
The Altavista, Virginia factory manufactures wheel bearing hub assembly units, focusing on trucks and SUVs, and Ford in particular.
Opened in 1991, Altavista had been experiencing rapid growth in production and employment as truck and SUV sales boomed, and particularly because it has been tied to the fastest-selling lineup of trucks in Ford's history. Altavista has been expanded no fewer than seven times since it was built, and currently covers well over 150,000 square feet. At its peak, the plant employed nearly 350 people.
Altavista's most recent expansions were in 2003 and 2006 when capacity was added to manufacture heavy-duty wheel bearing hub units for Ford F250, F350 and F450 trucks. All of the expansion projects were met with help and assistance from state and regional initiatives; the $11 million 2006 expansion for example, is being offset by approximately $460,000 in state and local government incentives.
Altavista's layoffs have been coming in smaller steps as needed, rather than single blocks. The need for layoffs at all has been mitigated somewhat by relatively good sales for the vehicles using Altavista's bearings. Also, the plant had been relatively understaffed, electing for overtime instead of additional hires. Today, those same workers are on shorter hours and some have been moved to short weeks -- avoiding the need to expand layoffs deeper into hard-to-replace skills.
Looking ahead, more layoffs are likely for plants focused on components for trucks and SUV's, the hardest-hit segments in a deeply troubled industry. SUV sales in December, for example, are expected to be off more than 40% from 2007. And in 2008, cars are expected to far outsell trucks for the first time in many years, a reversal never expected as the year began. Still, the Ford F-series trucks, with more than 30% of the full-size truck market, are on track to score their 27th consecutive year as America's top-selling vehicles.