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Ford Counts on Escape Launch to Help Solve Capacity Problems

Maker losing sales, share, officials warn.

by on Jun.14, 2012

A worker installs a front end module on a new Ford Escape at the Louisville Assembly Plant.

With the formal production launch of its new Escape crossover-utility vehicle, Ford Motor Co. caps off a $600 million investment in its Louisville assembly plant, converting a traditional truck facility with limited flexibility to one that can handle six different car-based models simultaneously.

The project was meant to address several problems facing the automaker.  Among other things, the massive factory will now be able to more rapidly adapt to shifts in market demand.  But equally important, it is part of a broader effort by Ford to catch up to the surging U.S. market.  Company officials have been warning that Ford is likely to lose sales and market share this year because it is running short of capacity after years of factory cutbacks.

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“Louisville Assembly Plant’s reinvention illustrates how Ford is going further, continuing to invest in American manufacturing and new jobs,” proclaimed Ford President of the Americas Mark Fields, “while delivering even more of the fuel-efficient vehicles that give customers true power of choice.”


Workers Approve Ford Pact

Eyes now on Chrysler.

by on Oct.19, 2011

UAW Pres. Bob King shakes hands with Ford Chairman Bill Ford as negotiations open in July.

Though the final tally won’t be released until later today it is now clear that the Ford Motor Co.’s tentative contract with the United Auto Workers Union will be approved.

Workers in Louisville, Kentucky accepted the agreement yesterday, and though the votes at a few small plants were still being tallied it was mathematically ensured that the 4-year settlement will take effect.  The contract had generated significant opposition and, with workers at several key plants turning thumbs down it briefly appeared the contract would be rejected, possibly triggering a strike.

The new contract, which will cover Ford’s 41,000 U.S. hourly workers, gave both sides the opportunity to claim victory, with Ford committing to increase investments in the country and add new jobs but the union accepting that the agreement had to maintain the maker’s cost competitiveness.

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As a result, there were no raises for the majority of workers – though those being hired in under a second-tier wage program will see wages rise, on average, by about $3 an hour over the life of the agreement.  The new contract does provide a $6,500 up-front signing bonus.  And that compares with $5,000 at General Motors – which settled with the UAW in September – and just $3,500 at Chrysler.


Ford To Reveal New Escape Concept

Production moving to Louisville, maker confirms.

by on Dec.10, 2010

A new Ford Escape will go into the Louisville plant, next year, after a $600 million rennovation.

Ford Motor Co. plans to show off a concept version of its Escape SUV during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit that will reveal significant changes to the popular SUV that will be made late next year.

The transformation will come at the same time production of the Escape will move to Ford’s big assembly plant in Louisville, Kentucky, a project that will require a $600 million investment – but which will also generate 1,800 new jobs.

“Our Louisville Assembly Plant transformation further proves our commitment to American manufacturing and our commitment to deliver the high-quality, fuel-efficient vehicles people really want,” said Mark Fields, Ford’s president of The Americas.

“Working closely with the UAW and Kentucky officials, we have found a way to competitively deliver an important new vehicle that is good for our customers and supports our plan to deliver a well-balanced product portfolio of cars, trucks and utilities,” said Fields, who confirmed the Escape concept vehicle will unveiled at the NAIAS,

The investment in the Kentucky plant continues a grand transformation of Ford’s North American vehicle assembly network. Ford moved production of the all-new 2011 Explorer to Chicago from Louisville earlier this year.

The re-construction of the Louisville plant will begin this month and calls for the installation of new tooling, body shop equipment and other upgrades necessary to build the next-generation Escape for North America.  The re-programmable tooling planned for the body shop will allow the plant to produce multiple vehicle models at the same time without requiring downtime for tooling changeover -
making the Louisville Assembly Plant Ford’s most flexible high-volume assembly line in the world, officials said.

“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. “While we are launching Louisville Assembly Plant with one key product – the next-generation Ford Escape – we are building in the flexibility to produce other vehicles at the plant in the future, depending upon volume requirements, customer preferences and other factors that affect vehicle demand.”

Ford’s investment of $600 million in Louisville Assembly Plant for production of the next-generation Escape also is supported by loans from the U.S. Department of Energy. Louisville Assembly Plant is one of 11 Ford plants in the U.S. participating in the $25 billion Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Incentives Program initiated by Congress and implemented by the Obama administration.