VALENCIA, Venezuela, May 13 (Reuters) - The Venezuela division of Ford Motor Co will sell pickups and sport utility vehicles in dollars, a union leader said on Wednesday, part of a deal with the government to restart operations stalled for lack of hard currency to import parts.
The country's auto assembly has tumbled as companies struggle to obtain greenbacks through the 12-year-old currency controls, which have also left companies unable to repatriate revenue from their Venezuela operations.
"We're doing this to avoid closing the plant," said Gilberto Troya, president of the United Socialist Victorious Union of Ford workers, at a press conference.
Critics have pounced on the dollarized sales of cars as a sign of the economy's decay, noting that the vast majority of Venezuelans have no access to greenbacks.
Government leaders dismiss the idea that a dollarization campaign is under way.
Ford dealerships will sell the Explorer Limited and Ecosport SUVs, the Lariat Pickup and three models of cargo trucks in dollars, Troya said. Economy cars such as the Ford Fiesta will continue to be priced in local bolivar currency, he added, but suggested consumers may struggle to find those models.
"Some would say this is only benefitting a privileged few, but it's better than nothing," he said, noting that few Venezuelans have access to dollars.
Ford de Venezuela did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Explorer Limited would be priced at $69,000 including sales and luxury tax, according to figures provided by the union, the equivalent of 170 years of minimum wage using the weakest official exchange rate.
Dealerships will receive dollars from clients and use them to finance the import of assembly kits, because Ford no longer wants to continue putting in money.
"Headquarters doesn't want to have anything to do with this after years of not being able to generate profit," Troya said. "They are owed $400 million."
Government officials did not respond to requests for comment on the situation with Ford. (Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Ted Botha)