As if to drive home the fact that the automotive market is extremely difficult to predict, Ford is ramping up production of the 2009 F-150 truck to meet demand. After cutting shifts, buying out workers and beginning retooling of a truck plant to make compacts earlier this year, Ford is stepping up truck production once again in the worst truck market in recent memory.

"Frankly, a lot of regions and dealers in those regions are really concerned about their truck inventory," Jim Farley, Ford group vice president of marketing and communications, told Automotive News on Tuesday. "We're starting to see quite a few regions where they're trading trucks across state now because we've run out of '08s, and the '09 shipment is not as fast as they would want."

To meet the increased demand, Ford will begin overtime production of the F-150 at its Kansas City, Missouri, plant this week and adding another shift in January. While F-150 sales are down 25.4% through November, truck and SUV sales have rebounded recently due to falling gas prices. Still, Ford spokeswoman Angie Kozleski said that the company doesn't expect sales to return to their previous levels. Ford sold 473,933 F-150s through November this year, barely more than half of the 939,463 trucks sold in 2004, the model's best year.

Ford likely won't be hiring more workers for the extra shift, though. The company is also cutting a production shift for the Ford Escape SUV due to falling demand and will move those workers to the F-150 line. Adding a shift at Kansas City means that Ford won't have to retool its Dearborn, Michigan, plant over the holiday break to build more F-150s. The company is still planning to add an additional shift at that plant in January.

Source: Automotive News (Subscription Required)