HAPEVILLE, Ga. – With little fanfare, the last Taurus sedan rolled off the Ford assembly line Friday as production ceased and 1,950 employees lost their jobs.
The Atlanta Assembly Plant had been producing cars since 1947 and in the last five years it was ranked as one of the top 10 most productive assembly lines in North America.
But the nation's second-biggest automaker announced in January that it would close the plant as part of a reorganization to boost Ford Motor Co.'s (F) profits. Friday's milestone concluded 21 years of producing the popular sedan, with sales of nearly 7 million vehicles.
"The Atlanta plant and the employees there had a great run — the vehicles they built there were very important to the company," said 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 could choose among eight separation, educational and retirement packages. It is unclear how many workers will work at other Ford plants, Gattari said. "As we transition through these difficult times and into our comeback, we've got to reduce our work force and become a leaner, more efficient and competitive company."
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.
The last Taurus will go to Chick-fil-A restaurant chain founder Truett Cathy, who has credited the success of his first restaurant in Hapeville to business from Ford workers across the street.
"I received it with mixed emotion," said Cathy. 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.
Cathy opened his first restaurant, the Dwarf Grill, in 1946 with his brother. In 1961, he developed Chick-fil-A's trademark chicken sandwich and asked diners from the Ford plant in Hapeville to try it. He opened his first Chick-fil-A restaurant in 1967 in Atlanta.