Buyers take the heavy-duty F-Series chasses and add customized configurations such as tow trucks and bottle haulers.

With the launch of new factories by the likes of Nissan and Honda, Mexico has become one of the world’s largest automotive exporters. In fact, the U.S. now imports more vehicles from its neighbor South of the Border than it does from Japan – which is why it might come as a surprise to see Ford pulling back production of its biggest F-Series models from Mexico to the U.S.

The maker today will announce plans to invest $168 million to expand its truck plant in Avon Lake, Ohio, to handle the added production of those F-650 and F-750 models, starting early next year.  Going forward, that means that all F-Series production – from the smallest F-150 to the biggest commercial versions – will be based in the States.

“Shifting production of the 2016 Ford F-650 and F-750 medium-duty trucks to Ohio Assembly Plant helps secure a solid future for the dedicated workers at this facility,” said Joe Hinrichs, Ford president of The Americas. “Building these trucks in-house will utilize our expertise from our other tough truck and commercial vehicle lines to give our customers a better product at a competitive price.”

A dump truck using the F-650 platform.

There apparently were several reasons behind the decision to shift production from Mexico to the Avon Lake plant. For one thing, the F-650 and F-750 models currently are assembled at a facility operated as part of a joint venture with Navistar.  Ford will now do the work itself, offering it more “cohesion” in the production of the entire F-Series line-up, explained spokesperson Kristina Adamski.

(Ford facing challenge proving aluminum F-150 will be durable enough. Click Here for more.)

Ford is also making good on a promise it made to the United Auto Workers Union as part of their most recent contract. The 2011 collective bargaining agreement called on Ford to create new jobs in return for steps the UAW accepted to improve productivity and restrain labor costs.

“We are extremely pleased that the dedicated, highly skilled and highly motivated UAW members of Ohio Assembly Plant have been selected to build the next-generation Ford F-650 and F-750,” Jimmy Settles, UAW vice president and director of the National Ford Department, said in a statement.

The shift in production will coincide with the launch of the updated 2016 version of Ford’s heaviest F-Series models – products typically sold in chassis form and used as the platform for a variety of cargo haulers and other commercial vehicles. The 2016 trucks will be offered in Regular, SuperCab and Crew Cab configurations, and an all-new tractor model – designed for heavy towing – will be added to the line.

The new models were introduced earlier this week at the National Truck Equipment Association’s Work Truck Show in Indianapolis.  The big F-650 and -750 models are routinely the segment’s best-sellers, while the F-Series overall has been the nation’s best-selling truck for 29 years running.

While these heavy-duty models will get a number of significant changes for 2016 – including an updated 6.7-liter Power Stroke V-8, and new front ends – they will continue to use the same basic platform as the previous line.  There is no set timetable for Ford to migrate to the aluminum-intensive body that it will introduce on the F-150 line-up for the 2015 model-year, Ford spokesperson Adamski told TheDetroitBureau.com.

(Feds funding new lightweight metals manufacturing lab. Click Here for the story.)

Ford isn’t the only maker that has “in-sourced” production from overseas. General Motors, notably, brought the latest version of its Chevrolet Sonic back from South Korea several years ago, largely due to concessions offered by the UAW that made it possible to compete with an American-made subcompact in a price-sensitive segment.

But Ford’s move will be of little impact on the rapid growth of the Mexican automotive industry.  Last year, the Latin American nation produced about 2.9 million vehicles, but with the addition of a new Nissan factory in Aguascalientes, this month’s launch of a new Honda plant producing the Fit subcompact – and more coming, including a new Audi factory – that’s soon expected to reach 4 million.

Mexico is already one of the world’s largest automotive exporters and is now supplying more vehicles to the U.S. market than Japan.

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