Ford halting Venezuela production until April, executive says

The corporate logo of Ford is seen at a Ford branch in Caracas March 27, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co F.N halted auto production in Venezuela last week and will not resume it until April, a company executive said on Tuesday, in another blow to the crisis-wracked country's manufacturing sector.

“It is a measure to adjust production to demand in the country,” Lyle Watters, Ford’s president for South America, told reporters at an event in São Paulo, adding that the plant affected by the shutdown employs 2,000 workers.

Watters said the production freeze would not affect Ford’s consolidated results as operations in Venezuela are reported separately. Beginning in the first quarter of this year, Venezuela became the only wholly owned Ford unit with operating results that are excluded from the full company’s income statement.

In January 2015, Ford took a charge related to its Venezuelan operations that cut fourth-quarter net profit by $700 million. Ford is the only automaker still mass producing cars in Venezuela, even on a limited scale.

Vehicle production in recession-hit Venezuela is less than 8 cars a day, according to figures provided by the national automakers organization Cavenez. Ford produced 2,253 units out of a paltry national total of 2,768 in the year through November.

It takes less than two days for Ford at one of its larger U.S. plants to make as many vehicles as the company has made in Venezuela so far in 2016.

Ford in 2014 halted production for about a month due to a lack of foreign currency to import parts for assembly.

In mid-2015, Ford's major U.S. rival, General Motors Co GM.N, stopped making vehicles in Venezuela altogether. GM had one plant in Venezuela.

Reporting by Alberto Alerigi and additional reporting by Andrew Cawthorne in Caracas, writing by Ana Mano; Editing by Tom Brown and Alistair Bell