In order to build its new Escape, a fuel-efficient small utility vehicle with an automatic transmission that was launched on June 13, Ford Motor Co. (IW 1000/16) announced it has added 1,800 jobs at Louisville Assembly Plant (LAP).
The company plans to add an additional 1,300 more employees to a third shift this fall, bringing total hourly employment at the plant to 4,200.
"Today marks a celebration of progress and transformation," said Mark Fields, Ford's president of The Americas. "Louisville Assembly Plant's reinvention illustrates how Ford is going further, continuing to invest in American manufacturing and new jobs while delivering even more of the fuel-efficient vehicles that give customers true power of choice."
Ford has added more than 5,200 hourly jobs in the U.S. this year alone. With LAP's third shift, by year-end, Ford is on pace to deliver more than half of the 12,000 new U.S. hourly jobs it committed to add by 2015.
The company invested $600 million to convert LAP from a plant producing body-on-frame SUVs into a facility that builds fuel-efficient small utility vehicles with automatic transmissions. The upgraded LAP is capable of producing up to six different vehicles at the same time, making it Ford's most flexible U.S. plant.
As part of the upgrade, Ford installed new tooling and improved equipment in the plant's final assembly area and body shop, including more than 1,000 robots and 20 miles of conveyors. Reprogrammable tooling in the body shop allows the plant to produce multiple vehicle models at the same time without requiring downtime for tooling changeover.
"Manufacturing flexibility is critical to staying competitive in today's global automotive marketplace," said Jim Tetreault, Ford vice president of North America Manufacturing. "Our ability to produce up to six vehicles from a single plant gives us a sizable advantage in quickly adjusting our products and volumes to match changes in customer preferences and market factors."
LAP is the third Ford plant in North America to retool from producing traditional body-on-frame trucks and SUVs to fuel-efficient vehicles from global platforms.
The company's investment in Louisville is supported by strong partnerships at the state, county and local level, as well as by Ford's green partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy. LAP is one of 11 Ford facilities in the U.S. participating in the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program initiated by Congress and implemented by the Obama administration.
"This is a day of celebration for Ford and the Commonwealth of Kentucky," said Gov. Steve Beshear. "Production of the new Escape not only means thousands of jobs for Kentuckians, it boosts our GDP, tax revenue, and raises the level of the Commonwealth's robust automotive industry, which is already one of the top five in the nation."
The Louisville-built Escape is the first of the new line of compact SUVs to be built off of Ford's global C-car platform. The same vehicle will be built and sold in Europe and China, where it is called Kuga, although there will be unique powertrains and features for customers in those markets.
The Escape has a choice of two EcoBoost engines - a 2.0-liter four-cylinder as well as a 1.6-liter four-cylinder that delivers 33 mpg highway. The Escape also features a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 31 mpg highway.
Supply Chain Network
Ford's global supply network is playing a key role in the launch of the Escape, as well as the economic development of the Louisville area. Several major suppliers have invested more than $56 million locally and are in the process of adding more than 900 jobs, many of which will support the Escape.
Suppliers that expanded operations include:
--Magna Seating of America Inc., which invested nearly $20 million to build a new 140,000-square-foot plant in Shepardsville, Ky., and will eventually employ 450 people. Magna supplies seat assemblies, fascias, the rear subframe, upper control arms, rear camera module, trailer tow module, fixed back glass and the rear bumper beam.
--Faurecia, which invested $19 million at its Faurecia Interior Systems plant in Louisville. The facility will have 260 employees at full production - 250 dedicated to producing the Escape instrument panel. Faurecia also supplies exhaust systems.
--Martinrea International expanded its Shelbyville, Ky., operations with a $12 million investment, adding 150 jobs. Martinrea makes body stamped subassemblies, the front subframe and fuel filler pipe.
--Piston Automotive invested $5.5 million and added 50 jobs, many of which are supporting the Escape launch. Piston makes cooling module assemblies for the Escape.