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.