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Ford execs may announce plan to build compact Escape SUV at Kentucky plant

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Ford execs may announce plan to build compact Escape SUV at Kentucky plant

By JERE DOWNS and BRENT SNAVELY

Louisville Courier-Journal and Detroit Free Press

Ford executives are expected today to confirm that the automaker will build the Ford Escape compact SUV at its Louisville Assembly Plant in Kentucky.

Ford President of the Americas Mark Fields and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear are scheduled to make an announcement this morning at the plant. For more than a year, analysts and industry insiders have speculated that the new Escape would be built there.

Ford could also announce a Lincoln version of the SUV in the 2014 model year, the Louisville Courier-Journal has previously reported.

To make that possible, the plant, which has long built the Ford Explorer midsize SUV, is going through a $500-million transformation, so it can build cars and crossovers off of Ford's new compact platform.

"With every factory, I expect the bar gets raised on technology and productivity," said Jim Tetreault, Ford's vice president of manufacturing for North America.

Ford officials plan two shifts, employing about 2,000, with hopes that demand for the products will be strong enough eventually to go around the clock with three shifts and another 1,000 UAW workers.

When complete, Louisville Assembly "will probably be the most highly technological place in North America," said UAW Local 862 Skilled Trades Chairman Jamie Burke.

The investment is similar to one made locally. In Wayne, Ford is spending about $550 million to retool its Michigan Assembly Plant with the same manufacturing system to build the Ford Focus, the Focus Electric and possibly several other compact vehicles.

Read more: Ford execs may announce plan to build compact Escape SUV at Kentucky plant | freep.com | Detroit Free Press http://www.freep.com/article/20101209/BUSINESS01/12090402/Ford-execs-may-announce-plan-to-build-compact-Escape-SUV-at-Kentucky-plant#ixzz17cgFlfIV

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Ford will make new Escape in Kentucky, adding 1,800 jobs

David Phillips

Automotive News -- December 9, 2010 - 12:12 pm ET

Ford Motor Co. is investing $600 million to renovate its Louisville, Ky., assembly plant to build the next-generation Escape for North America. Some 1,800 jobs will be added when the plant reopens in late 2011, Ford announced today.

The automaker said the factory is the third North American body-on-frame truck plant it is retrofitting to build more fuel-efficient vehicles.

The refurbished plant will be flexible enough to produce five additional models -- cars, crossovers and wagons -- and making it Ford's most advanced factory in the world, the automaker said. Bloomberg News reported the plant will also produce a small crossover for Lincoln starting in 2012.

The plant has assembled the Ford Explorer SUV since 1990. Ford plans to end output of the 2010 Explorer SUV on Dec. 16.

Two shifts

Ford has shifted output of the all-new 2011 Explorer to its Chicago assembly plant. The Escape and Escape Hybrid are currently built in Kansas City, Mo.

Ford's Kansas City plant will continue to build the Ford F-150 pickup on one shift. Missouri lawmakers have offered Ford incentives to bring a new model to Kansas City and keep the plant open.

“Additional new products for Kansas City will be announced at a future time,” Ford spokesperson Marcey Evans told Bloomberg.

When the Louisville factory reopens in 2011, Ford said it will operate on two production shifts with about 2,900 employees -- up from one shift currently and about 1,100 employees.

Ford said the 1,800 additional jobs are expected to be filled through a combination of employee transfers from other facilities, reactivated workers on indefinite layoff at the time of launch, and new workers. Under the automaker's labor agreement with the UAW, new production workers will paid substantially less than existing workers.

“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,” Mark Fields, Ford's president of The Americas, said in a statement.

Preview in Detroit

Ford said today it plans to offer a preview of the new Escape with a concept scheduled to be unveiled at the Detroit auto show in January.

The changes to the Louisville plant will include tooling and facility upgrades in the final assembly area and body shop.

New, reprogrammable tooling in the body shop will allow the plant to produce multiple vehicle models at the same time without requiring downtime for tooling changeover -- making the plant Ford's most flexible high-volume factory in the world.

“Manufacturing flexibility is a key to competitiveness, and we are continually exploring ways to raise the bar in this critical area of the business,” Jim Tetreault, Ford's vice president of North America manufacturing, said in the statement.

“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.”

Tax breaks

As part of the project, the state of Kentucky and the city of Louisville agreed to award Ford up to $240 million in tax incentives during the next 10 years. The incentives are based on current and potential future investments and job creation at the company's two Kentucky facilities -- the Louisville assembly plant and Ford's Kentucky truck plant, where the Super Duty F-Series pickup is built.

Kentucky's incentives are based upon an initial combined Ford investment at both facilities of about $800 million. The project is also supported by loans from the U.S. Department of Energy.

The Louisville assembly plant is one of 11 Ford facilities in the United States participating in the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Incentives Program launched by Congress and implemented by the Obama administration. Under the program, Ford has been awarded $5.9 billion in loans to refit plants to build more fuel efficient and advanced technology models.

Read more: http://www.autonews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20101209/OEM01/101209818/1254#ixzz17de8HJvU

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Ford has big plans for Ky. plant: Escape production, and much more

BY BRENT SNAVELY

FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER

With the announcement of Ford Escape production at one of its two Louisville plants on Thursday, Ford is well on its way to delivering its goal of 10 vehicles off the same compact Ford Focus car platform.

By 2012, Ford has said it hopes that family of vehicles will have a global volume of about 2 million annually.

At Louisville Assembly, where Ford is investing $600 million to retool, Ford will soon be able to build any of those 10 vehicles, including the new Escape, said Jim Tetrault, Ford’s vice president of North America manufacturing.

Ford plans to reveal a concept version of the SUV in January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

The new Escape will be developed from Ford’s global compact car platform, and is expected to reflect the styling of Ford’s Kuga, a popular compact crossover the company sells in Europe.

When production of the Escape starts in late 2011, the plant will operate on two shifts with approximately 2,900 employees — up from 1,100 employees — and the plant will be Ford’s most modern assembly plant.

Ford said it will fill the 1,800 new positions with a combination of new hires, transfers from other plants and by bringing back some workers who are on indefinite layoff.

Under Ford's 2007 contract with the UAW, new hires will make around $14, or half the wages of existing workers.

“At one time, this was our highest volume plant North America,” said Tetrault . “Next year we will be close to 3,000 workers on two shifts when we are back at full production capacity.”

Today's announcement is on top of the creation of new 1,200 jobs at a plant in Chicago and 1,975 jobs that were previously performed by suppliers at Ford plants across the country.

Ford said it expects to receive up to $240 million in tax incentives over the next 10 years from Kentucky and the city of Louisville in return for its investment and job-creation commitments at its two assembly plants in Kentucky. Aside from the Louisville Assembly Plant, the Ford Kentucky Truck Plant, also in Louisville, builds the heavy-duty versions of the popular F-Series.

Louisville Assembly had been making the Ford Explorer SUV since 1989, but Ford moved production of the SUV to its Chicago plant earlier this year.

The Louisville plant is the third North American truck plant that Ford is revamping to build cars and crossovers.

UAW local ratifies deal in Wayne

Ford also began retooling a truck factory to make cars last year at its Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne. That plant, which once built large Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator SUVs, recently started making pre-production versions of its redesigned Ford Focus.

Ford is spending about $550 million to retool that plant, which will make the Focus, Focus Electric and possibly several other compact vehicles.

Tetrault said Ford will have the ability to make as many as six versions of vehicles from its compact car platform at Michigan Assembly.

At Michigan Assembly, Ford gained $159.4 million in state tax credits to support the investment. A revised local agreement with UAW Local 900 also was ratified last week.

“It increases our flexibility, reduces a lot of constraints that we have and makes it a lot more efficient,” Tetrault said of the new contract.

Bill Johnson, plant chairman for UAW Local 900, said 91% of production workers and 72% of skilled-trades workers that work at the nearby Wayne Assembly Plant ratified the new local agreement. Johnson said the biggest change was an agreement to consolidate job classifications and allow an outside supplier to shuttle finished cars from the plant to a rail shipping point.

Workers built the final Ford Focus at Wayne Assembly last Friday and are scheduled to begin building the redesigned Focus at Michigan Assembly on Jan. 3 after they transfer over to the plant, which is located next door.

LINK:

http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20101209/BUSINESS0102/101209028/1331/business01/Ford-has-big-plans-for-Ky.-plant-Escape-production-and-much-more&template=fullarticle

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