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Ford to relocate battery, hybrid work to metro area

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Ford to relocate battery, hybrid work to metro area

About 220 jobs to be created at 3 sites for 5 vehicles, it says



Ford is investing $135 million to bring battery pack and hybrid vehicle transmission production to metro Detroit. The work is currently done in Mexico and Japan.

The move will result in 40 new jobs at the company's Rawsonville plant in Ypsilanti, 130 new jobs at the Van Dyke transmission plant in Sterling Heights and 50 new jobs for electric vehicle engineers in Dearborn.

Ford employs about 780 workers at Rawsonville. They produce air filters, starters and carbon canisters. Hiring for the new positions will begin closer to the 2012 start of production, a Ford spokeswoman said.

It is unclear how many of the new hourly jobs might go to new workers whom Ford could pay a lower wage of about $14 an hour. The company has about 450 UAW workers on layoff status.

Mark Fields, Ford president for the Americas, said Monday that labor agreements require Ford "to provide jobs to the surplus labor that we have. Once we do that, we will look to hire entry-level people."

The bulk of the investment, $125 million, is targeted for a new electric-drive HF 35 transaxle. Ford has purchased transaxles for its current hybrids -- Ford Escape and Fusion, Mercury Mariner and Milan -- from Japanese supplier Aisin AW. The remaining $10 million is to go to new equipment at Rawsonville. Ford also was aided by $188 million in tax credits the Michigan Economic Growth Authority approved in January.

Ford plans to launch the following five new all-electric or hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles in the U.S. by 2012 and in Europe by 2013:

• Transit Connect Electric light commercial van for later this year in the U.S. and for 2011 in Europe.

• Focus Electric compact car in North America in 2011 and in Europe in 2012.

• Lincoln MKZ hybrid luxury sedan, which is to be available this fall in North America.

• A next-generation hybrid electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicle based on Ford's global C-car platform in 2012.

• A C-MAX hybrid electric and plug-in hybrid electric for Europe in 2013.

The battery packs made in Rawsonville will only be used in the hybrid models, said Nancy Gioia, Ford director of global electrification.

The battery pack investment represents a renewal at Rawsonville -- a plant Ford considered closing as recently as 2006 after taking it back from Visteon. But UAW Local 898 agreed to cost reductions that made the plant more competitive and then explored new products beyond what Ford now makes there.

UAW Vice President Bob King thanked Gov. Jennifer Granholm for her commitment to making Michigan a hub for electric vehicle technology, and Ken Williams, Ford's manufacturing director for automatic transmission and axle operations, for supporting the shift back to U.S. production.

"Batteries were going into Korea, and China is developing its own electric vehicle industry and Gov. Granholm stepped up," King said.



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