Ford is adding 2,200 U.S. salaried jobs this year — the most white-collar hiring the automaker has done in more than 10 years.
The jobs will be in such areas as product development, manufacturing and information technology. They are full-time Ford jobs with benefits — not agency or contract workers. Ford ended 2012 with 28,000 salaried workers in North America. Openings will be posted on the Ford Careers website at www.careers.ford.com.
Ford did not disclose the exact locations where the new salaried jobs will be, but “a significant number will be in southeast Michigan,” said spokesman Todd Nissen.
Last month, the Free Press reported that Ford plans to create 2,350 hourly jobs and invest $773 million in six southeast Michigan plants by 2015.
“As we expand our product lineup of fuel-efficient vehicles, we need more people in critical areas — such as in a range of engineering activities, vehicle production, computer software and other IT functions,” said Joe Hinrichs, Ford president of the Americas.
Ford also is doubling its quarterly dividend to 10 cents per share, payable March 1, a move that pleased investors who pushed Ford shares to $13.83, its highest closing price since July 8, 2011.
The dividend hike may indicate Ford is confident that it won’t disappoint investors when it releases fourth-quarter earnings later this month. Those figures will be used to calculate profit-sharing for hourly workers and bonuses for salaried workers, usually paid in March. Last year, 40,600 UAW workers received average profit-sharing of $5,000.
Last year, about 20,000 salaried workers received both bonuses and raises for the first time since 2008.
Ford shed tens of thousands of jobs beginning in the middle of last decade and through the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009. New car sales in the U.S. rose 13.4%, to 14.49 million in 2012.
Last year, Ford created more than 8,100 salaried and hourly jobs in the U.S. About 1,000 of those represented work brought back to U.S. factories previously done by suppliers in Japan and Mexico.
As part of the 2011 UAW contract, Ford pledged to add 12,000 hourly jobs and invest $6.2 billion in U.S. plants by 2015.
Ford lost market share in 2012 because it could not make enough cars and trucks, and because Toyota and Honda regained sales they lost in 2011.
Last year, Ford began adding equipment and workers to boost North American production by 400,000 vehicles a year. The expansions and launches of such models as the Ford Fusion, Escape, Focus and C-Max kept Jim Tetreault, vice president for North America manufacturing, hopping.
“It was the most launches and capacity adds in a year that I have ever had in my career,” Tetreault said.
This year, Ford is rolling out the Fiesta ST, Transit commercial vans and Lincoln MKZ. The next few years will bring redesigns of the Mustang, F-Series pickup, Edge and Lincoln MKX, as well as replacements for the Explorer, Taurus and Lincoln MKS.
Hiking the dividend comes about one year after Ford resumed paying anything to shareholders after having suspended the dividend for five years. From 2006 through 2011, Ford took on massive debt to weather the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
That debt was rated as “junk,” or below investment grade, meaning the company had to pay higher interest rates on bonds. The aggressive borrowing allowed Ford to survive without the same government assistance that the Obama administration provided General Motors and Chrysler in 2009.
“Our ability to double our dividend in one year is a testament to our One Ford plan, which has enabled us to maintain a solid balance sheet” and “provide our shareholders with more return on their investment,” said Bob Shanks, chief financial officer.
Peter Nesvold, equity analyst with Jefferies & Co. in New York, said the dividend increase is a positive signal that Ford’s restructuring of its unprofitable European business is having an impact.
Nesvold raised his target price of Ford’s stock to $16.
Ford is closing plants, consolidating manufacturing and reducing workers in Europe, where it lost slightly more than $1 billion in the first nine months of 2012.
“We think this will make dividend seekers take another look and make the Ford family happier,” S&P Capital IQ equity analyst Efraim Levy wrote in a report. “Now yielding about 3.0%, we would buy Ford shares for total return potential.”
Nesvold said the 3% yield now opens up the stock to a larger group of investors, including those who are drawn to higher yielding stocks because they’re usually less risky.
Ford is expanding its use of social media to recruit tech-savvy workers using Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and stepping up recruiting efforts to reach military veterans.
Salaried job openings are posted on the Ford Careers website at www.careers .ford.com .
Interested candidates should follow Twitter ( http://twitter .com/FordCareers ) and Facebook ( www.facebook.com/FordMotorCompanyCareers ).
Individuals who “like” the Ford Careers Facebook page and follow Ford Careers on Twitter will receive regular updates about career opportunities.
When plants are in hiring mode, they use the nearest Michigan Works! agency, but only at the time of hiring. Ford does not collect applications year-round.
Alisa Priddle, Detroit Free Press.