Ford reshuffles top management as UAW strike drags on

(Reuters) – Ford Motor Co on Wednesday announced a management rejig, promoting combustion vehicle unit chief Kumar Galhotra to the position of chief operating officer, even as the ongoing autoworkers strike shows little signs of ending.

Galhotra, who previously headed the Ford Blue unit that makes gas and hybrid vehicles, will now lead the automaker’s global industrial system.

Andrew Frick, who previously managed Ford Blue’s sales and distribution functions, trucks, SUVs and enthusiast vehicles, and operations in Mexico and Canada, will succeed Galhotra at the unit.

“These moves will drive clarity and simplicity across Ford, so we can significantly ramp up our capabilities and combine them with businesses that are focused on the needs of different customers,” Ford’s chief executive Jim Farley said.

After the UAW ordered its workers to walk out from Ford’s Kentucky Truck plant last week, Galhotra told the media the automaker was “at the limit” of what it can spend on higher wages and benefits, adding that going any further would hurt its ability to invest in its business.

Automakers are dealing with ongoing strikes by the United Auto Workers union that has led to total economic losses of $7.7 billion through Oct. 12, Anderson Economic Group of East Lansing, Michigan estimated in a report on Monday.

Ahead of its third-quarter earnings report on Oct. 26, Ford faces several questions, including the impact the UAW negotiations will have on U.S. labor costs and how it will slash losses in its electric-vehicle business amid a slowdown in demand due to high interest rates.

The automaker has already shifted heavily towards hybrid production. Ford said earlier last week it would temporarily cut one of three shifts at its Michigan plant that builds the electric F-150 lightning pickup truck.

(Reporting by Nathan Gomes in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri)