Ford Motor Company’s Louisville, Kentucky assembly plant has long been recognized as the center of Blue Oval light truck production, everything from the original compact Ranger to the Ford Explorer has been built there.
However, when production of the body-on-the-frame 2010 Explorer ends on December 16 2010, the plant will undergo a drastic transformation, to emerge as one of the most advanced auto manufacturing facilities in North America.
Although the upcoming Ford Escape is planned as the first, ‘primary’ vehicle to be manufactured at Louisville, the plant will be configured to handle flexible production, everything from small cars, to larger crossover SUVs (rumor has it that the new 2010 Focus and an upcoming small Lincoln SUV will join Escape at some point in the near future).
“Manufacturing flexibility is a key to competitiveness, and we are continually exploring ways to raise the bar in this critical area of the business,” said Jim Tetreault, Ford’s vice president of North America manufacturing, in a recent statement.
When it re-opens next year, the Louisville plant will feature new, upgraded and reprogrammable tooling, particularly in the final assembly and body shop areas, in order to handle multiple vehicle lines when required, plus 1800 new workers will be hired as Escape production gets under way. As part of the project, the state of Kentucky and the city of Louisville awarded Ford a total of up to $240 million in tax incentives over the next 10 years.
In addition, as part of the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Incentives Program launched by Congress, the Louisville plant is one of 11 Ford facilities receiving a total of $5.9 billion in loans to re-tool existing plants to produce more fuel efficient vehicles.
[Source: Automotive News]