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Atlanta plant makes last Taurus, closes



Published: Sat, October 28, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



The last Ford Taurus went to the founder of Chick-fil-A.

HAPEVILLE, Ga. (AP) -- The last Taurus sedan rolled off the assembly line Friday, and 1,950 jobs went with it.

The Atlanta Assembly Plant, which had been producing cars since Harry S. Truman was president and the birth of rock 'n' roll, was closed, leaving workers wondering where their next paycheck would come from.

The nation's second-biggest automaker announced 10 months ago that it would close the plant as part of a reorganization plan to boost Ford Motor Co.'s profits. Friday's milestone concluded 21 years of making the popular sedan, with sales of more than 7 million vehicles.

In the past five years, the plant was ranked as one of the top 10 most productive assembly lines in North America.

"The Atlanta plant and the employees there had a great run -- the vehicles they built there were very important to the company," said Ford spokeswoman Anne Marie Gattari. "Unfortunately, we're in a transition period where we are working to align our capacity with the customer demand and as a result we have to idle several assembly plants."

The workers who lost their jobs could choose among eight separation, educational and retirement packages. It is unclear how many will work at other Ford plants, Gattari said

Sinking in

"It'll be OK," said John Rape, 35, of Zebulon, who worked for Ford's chassis department and motor line since January 1995.

Then after a moment, he added: "It hasn't sunk in yet. Wait until Monday morning when I wake up and don't have anywhere to go."

S.L. Stephens, president of UAW Local 882, said about 300 to 400 workers have taken jobs at a Ford plant in Louisville, Ky. Other workers, like Laura Darsey, 43, who lives in Griffin, said she will stay in Georgia, despite being offered a Ford job elsewhere.

"I'm not going to chase them to keep a job," she said.

On Monday, Ford announced a third-quarter loss of 5.8 billion -- its largest quarterly loss in more than 14 years.

It said the third-quarter loss came from the costs of its massive restructuring plan aimed at reshaping the company and cutting expenses so it can compete better against lower-cost rivals from overseas.

Company officials predicted things would be even worse in the fourth quarter.

Chick-fil-A founder

The last Taurus went to Chick-fil-A restaurant chain founder Truett Cathy, who has credited the success of his first restaurant in Hapeville to business from the plant's workers.

"I received it with mixed emotion," said Cathy, as he spoke at the restaurant across the street from the plant.

He plans to put the sedan in the auto museum of his chain's corporate headquarters in Atlanta, where he has other Ford vehicles, including a Model T.




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