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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]
Ford will spend $550 million to transform it’s Michigan truck plant into a facility that bill be used to built the new Ford Focus, including an electric version of that vehicle.
By transforming the Michigan Trunk Plant into a compact car facility as many as 3,200 jobs will be saved as demand for large SUVs declines. The Truck Plant was the location where behemoths such as the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator were manufactured.
The all new Focus will begin production next year with an electric version of the compact car due out in 2011. This zero-emissions Focus is being built in partnership with Magna International and will be powered by an electric motor mated to a Lithium-Ion battery pack and can be charged though a conventional household outlet.
Ford has made a commitment to bring three more EVs to market by 2012.
“The transformation of Michigan Assembly Plant embodies the larger transformation under way at Ford,” said Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally. “This is about investing in modern, efficient and flexible American manufacturing. It is about fuel economy and the electrification of vehicles. It is about leveraging our expertise and vehicle platforms around the world and partnering with the UAW to deliver best-in-class global small cars. It is about skilled and motivated teams working together in new ways to create the future of automobile manufacturing in the United States.”
Along with the Michigan plant, Ford will transform its Louisville, KY plant to also produce the new Focus, as well as modify the company’s Cuautitlan Assembly in Mexico, where the new Fiesta is to be produced.
“We’re changing from a company focused mainly on trucks and SUVs to a company with a balanced product lineup that includes even more high-quality, fuel-efficient small cars, hybrids and all-electric vehicles,” said Mark Fields, Ford’s president of The Americas. “As customers move to more fuel-efficient vehicles, we’ll be there with more of the products they really want.”
Official release after the jump: