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Ford will invest $135 million in Michigan plants

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Ford will invest $135 million in Michigan plants

Ford will invest $135 million in two Michigan plants, resulting in 170 new jobs. The factories will be used to make hybrid car components.

By Tom Krisher, AP Auto Writer

DETROIT — Two Ford Motor(F) factories near Detroit will see 170 additional jobs in the next two years as the automaker brings battery pack and gas-electric hybrid transmission assembly to the United States.

The company said Monday it will create a "center of excellence" for electric vehicle development in the Detroit area. The company intends to add more than 50 engineers to work on the next generation of electric vehicles.

Ford said it will invest $135 million by 2012 at factories in Ypsilanti Township and Sterling Heights, Mich., to design, engineer and produce components for its next generation of hybrids and fully electric vehicles.

Currently a supplier makes complex hybrid transmissions for Ford in Japan, while battery packs are assembled in Mexico, the company said.

Mark Fields, Ford's president of the Americas, said further job growth and investment depends on acceptance of electric vehicles in the marketplace. Ford plans to sell five electric or hybrid vehicles in the United States by 2012 and in Europe by 2013. It currently offers four hybrid models.

"The good news is we're making the investment now, it's going to result in obviously driving innovation, driving job growth," Fields said. "We'll see where we go from there."

The Ypsilanti factory, which now makes auto parts, will get $10 million of investment to build battery packs, creating about 40 new jobs. The packs are now assembled in Mexico. Ford will get its advanced lithium-ion battery cells from a parts supplier that it would not identify.

The Sterling Heights transmission factory will get a $125 million investment and 130 new jobs to build hybrid transmissions now built in Japan.

Fields said Ford was able to bring the jobs to the United States because of cooperation with the United Auto Workers on wages and productivity. The company and the union, he said, agreed on how to do the work so the business case made sense.

UAW Vice President Bob King, who has been nominated to become the union's president, said the cooperation was essential to bringing jobs that Ford, which is based in Dearborn, Mich., could have kept in other countries. The company's decision also creates the potential for more work, he said.

"This is an area that will expand and grow, especially the batteries," he said.

Under the terms of its UAW contract, Ford will be able to pay the new workers around $14 a hour, about half the hourly wage it pays existing workers.

Before hiring new workers, the automaker will have to recall about 450 laid-off workers nationwide, but it expects to do that well before the Ypsilanti and Sterling Heights jobs are filled.

The news follows Friday's announcement that Chrysler will add nearly 1,100 new jobs at a Detroit plant that makes the new Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Michigan has the highest unemployment rate in the nation at 14%.



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Ford invests $135 million in 2 Michigan plants

Facilities in Sterling Heights, Ypsilanti Twp. to produce hybrid, electric parts

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News

Ypsilanti Township -- Ford Motor Co. said Monday it will invest $135 million in two Michigan parts plants as part of a broader effort to bring production of key electric vehicle technology in-house.

The move is good news for employees at both factories, where work has declined dramatically over the past decade, and it brings the Dearborn automaker one step closer to hanging out the "Help Wanted" sign again in southeastern Michigan.

Beginning in 2012, Ford's Rawsonville Plant in Ypsilanti Township will take over assembly of battery packs from a supplier in Mexico, and the company's Van Dyke Transmission Plant in Sterling Heights will begin producing hybrid transmissions that Ford now imports from Japan.


"We're not only bringing work back here to the good old United States, but we're bringing it in-house from an outside supplier," Ford President of the Americas Mark Fields told an enthusiastic crowd at the Rawsonville Plant.

"We're going to move these components to Ford's own facilities that employ our wonderful UAW workers."

Combined, about 170 new jobs will be created at the two factories. When Ford begins filling those positions in 2012, the new hires "likely" will be lower-wage, entry-level employees, Fields said. Under the terms of a key provision of the automaker's 2007 contract with the United Auto Workers, Ford can pay new hires $14 an hour -- about half what veteran workers earn.

Last week, Chrysler Group LLC said it would begin hiring so-called "second-tier" workers in July under a similar provision. General Motors Corp. also expects to soon begin hiring new, lower-wage hourly workers.

Before Ford can begin hiring new workers, it must find a home for some 450 employees who have been idled because of the steep decline in U.S. auto sales tied to the recession. Fields said most of them should find work at Ford's Chicago Assembly Plant, which is adding a second shift later this year to produce the new Ford Explorer.

Bob King, head of the UAW's national Ford section and union leaders' nominee to replace Ron Gettelfinger as UAW president next month, said these concessions are an example of the painful sacrifices his members have accepted to make Detroit's automakers competitive again.

"You need a partnership with management," King said. "If you're going to build high-quality products, if you're going to get the best products at the best price to the consumers, you need a management that will work together with you."

King said Ford's recent quality gains are proof of how well the company is working with UAW members to improve its cars and trucks.

Monday's announcement was made possible in part by loans to Ford from the U.S. Department of Energy and generous tax credits from Ypsilanti Township and the state of Michigan. The Energy Department funds are earmarked for modernizing factories to build more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm praised Ford for bringing jobs back to Michigan. "We are sending a message to the world," she said. "You can be competitive manufacturing in the United States and in Michigan."

But for workers at the Rawsonville Plant, where powertrain components are made, the news had more personal significance.

"It means we stay open," said worker Bernita White. "It means we keep our jobs and we can take care of our families."

From The Detroit News: http://www.detnews.com/article/20100525/AUTO01/5250325/1148/auto01/Ford-invests-$135-million-in-2-Michigan-plants#ixzz0owYmHlOT

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