09 May 2009

Ford Truck Plant Giving State Economy A Boost

Story from the Oakland Press

Ford Motor Co. is giving southeastern Michigan’s economy a $550 million shot in the arm as it moves forward with plans to build small vehicles and electric cars at an assembly plant in western Wayne County.

The automaker said Wednesday it will launch within the next year production of the all-new Ford Focus along with a battery-electric version of the Focus at the Wayne plant.

“The transformation of Michigan Assembly Plant embodies the larger transformation under way at Ford,” said Ford chief executive officer 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,” Mulally said.

The retooling of Michigan Assembly, one of the world’s most profitable auto plants during the SUV boom of the late 1990s, is based on Ford’s plan to use the company’s global assets to bring six world-class small cars to the North American market by the end of 2012, Ford officials said.

Ford is converting three truck and SUV plants to car plants — Michigan Assembly, Cuautitlan Assembly in Mexico and an assembly plant in Louisville, Ky., which will be converted to produce small vans and other vehicles from Ford’s global Focus platform beginning in 2011.

The Cuautitlan plant will be used for building the subcompact Ford Fiesta, which Ford also plans to sell in the U.S.

“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, fuelefficient 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,” Fields said.

The zero-emission battery-electric Focus vehicle, which is being developed in partnership with Magna International, features a high-voltage electric motor powered by a high capacity lithium ion battery pack and charged by plugging in to a 110-volt or 220-volt outlet.

Ford also plans to use its new agreement with the United Auto Workers to reduce job classifications and minimize the union work rules in the retooled factory.

Joe Hinrichs, group vice president for global manufacturing and labor affairs, said the new practices will enable the plant to operate at a high level of productivity while producing best-inclass quality products in a safe work environment.

“The UAW is a key partner in enabling us to build these worldclass vehicles competitively in the United States,” Hinrichs said.

“This agreement will allow the workforce to build on their quality commitment while improving productivity at the plant.”

The state of Michigan, Wayne County and the city of Wayne contributed more than $160 million in tax credits and grants to support Ford’s expansion opportunities.

“Ford is investing in both the future of the American auto industry and the state of Michigan by bringing together world-class products, advanced technology applications and strong partnerships with the UAW to build the next generation of vehicles that will help end our nation’s dependence on foreign oil,” Gov. Jennifer Granholm said.

“In these challenging economic times, we applaud and appreciate Ford's commitment to Michigan and to our talented workforce,” she said.

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