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Ford to build three electric models at 'green' Wayne plant

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Ford to build three electric models at 'green' Wayne plant

Alisa Priddle / The Detroit News

Wayne— Ford Motor Co. showed off its reborn Michigan Assembly Plant on Tuesday, where in addition to a fuel-efficient, gasoline-powered Focus, the automaker will build hybrid and electric versions of the compact car.

Ford spent $550 million to remake the 1.2 million-square-foot plant, which once produced full-size SUVs, into a flexible car factory. Company officials say Michigan Assembly, the Focus' global home, will be one of the industry's most advanced plants, because of its ability to make cars powered by one of four different powertrains.

"This becomes the combination of everything we have talked about for 11/2 years," Rob Webber, site manager, said on a plant tour.

"It is flexible and global and changing a truck plant to a car plant."Production of the new gasoline Focus ramps up Jan. 3, on two shifts.

But that's just the first act. At the end of 2011, Ford will add production of the Focus Electric, which runs on battery power only and will compete against the Nissan Leaf.

And in 2012, a plug-in Focus hybrid goes online. A conventional hybrid version will join the Focus family, too.

"We've modernized just about every square inch of this facility to establish a new standard for a high-tech, green, flexible and efficient auto factory," said Jim Tetreault, vice president of North American manufacturing.

"If the last few years have taught us anything, it is that customer wants and needs can change quickly — much more quickly than we have been equipped to efficiently respond to in the past."

At Michigan Assembly, he said, "we will achieve a level of flexibility we don't have in any other plant."

Ford officials ticked off a number of improvements.

The factory's paint shop, which had no robots, now has 66. Primer, body color paint and top coat are applied at the same time, as opposed to drying after each stage.

Work stations and processes have been standardized; the assembly line goes up and down to make it easier for workers to build up the car.

Tiny robots, about a foot high, hold and clamp body panels in place to be welded. And robots are programmed to weld according to the vehicle type.

About 550 processes are checked for quality, compared with about 300 at other plants.

The factory, as well as the vehicles it will produce, will be green.

A 500-kilowatt solar panel system — Michigan's largest, according to Ford — will be installed to help generate renewable energy for production of the Focus models.

Ten new electric vehicle charging stations on the property will be used to recharge the electric trucks that transport parts between adjacent facilities.

The remade Michigan Assembly is part of the One Ford vision of CEO Alan Mulally, who wants the automaker to operate all its facilities, worldwide, as a single company.

That means developing vehicles that can be built and sold in every market, and taking advantage of economies of scale.

The 2012 Focus is Ford's most global vehicle, with 80 percent common parts and assembly planned on three continents.

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20101215/AUTO01/12150326/Ford-to-build-three-electric-models-at-‘green’-Wayne-plant#ixzz18BeghJzB

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Ford Will Build Three Battery Vehicles At Updated Michigan Plant

Focus Electric, first to market, will debut in 2012.

by Paul A. Eisenstein on Dec.14, 2010

A 2011 Ford Focus rolls down the assembly line.

With a $550 million upgrade largely completed, Ford Motor Co.’s Wayne Assembly Plant will become battery central for the automaker, rolling out an assortment of new electric vehicles due to start production next year.

The suburban Detroit facility will be able to produce a mix of battery-based hybrids, plug-ins and pure battery-electric vehicles, or BEVs, as well as conventional gasoline-powered models, Ford officials revealed Tuesday, during a tour of the assembly plant. Ford is anticipating a sharp increase in demand for “electrified” products, according to Mark Fields, President of Ford of the Americas.

In fact, Ford is markedly more bullish than most of its competitors. Depending on where federal regulators eventually decide to push the nation’s fuel economy standards – and a jump to 62 mpg by 2025 is under serious study – battery power could become critical. At the very least, he said, various forms of hybrids, plug-ins and BEVs should account for a collective 10% of Ford’s fleet by 2020 – at the minimum. And that could jump as high as 25%.

A battery-powered Ford Focus will be the first electric vehicle to roll down the line at the Wayne Assembly Plant, starting late next year.

Last week, Ford and its partner, Canadian-based Azure Dynamics, shipped their first battery-electric version of the Transit Connect van. That largely hand-built model is being assembled at a small facility in the Detroit suburbs and is expected to generate less than 1,000 sales annually. But Ford has decidedly bigger hopes for a battery-electric version of its next-generation compact Focus model.

The Focus Electric will be assembled on the Wayne assembly line, alongside the conventionally-powered model, which is just going into production. Eventually, Ford will add two other battery models at the plant, a plug-in hybrid and a conventional hybrid. The maker is expected to provide more details about those projects at the Detroit Auto Show, next month.

(Ford hopes to add Stop/Start technology, which could improve mileage by 10%, to much of its line-up. Click Here for more.)

To prepare for Focus – and the various gas and battery-powered models to come – Ford completely tore up the aging Wayne plant, which used to be one of its core truck facilities. Some analysts call the move risky, as the small cars that will be produced at Wayne generate significantly lower margins than light trucks.

“But we’re going to counter that with scale,” insisted Ford CEO Alan Mulally, noting that the maker eventually plans to produce 10 different variants off its so-called Global C-Car platform, generating a collective 2 million units of volume annually. Since the underlying components will largely be shared from vehicle to vehicle and market to market, that will help the company earn money in market segments that used to be money pits, according to Mulally.

For the moment, Wayne Assembly has become the most modern factory in Ford’s global empire, according to Jim Tetreault, the maker’s chief of production for North America. “We’ve modernized just about every square foot of this facility to establish a new standard for high-tech, green, flexible and efficient auto factory.”

The 1.2 million square-foot plant will be the first in the world, the executive noted, to produce not only conventional vehicles but also three battery-based models.

While that will make Wayne one of Ford’s “greenest” assembly lines, the maker has also taken steps to ensure the facility operates in an environmentally-friendly manner. Among other things, Wayne will generate some of its electricity from new solar panels capable of producing up to 500-kilowatts of power – the largest such system in Michigan.

link:

http://www.detnews.com/article/20101215/AUTO01/12150326/1148/Ford-to-build-three-electric-models-at-‘green’-Wayne-plant

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Ford Wayne plant rehab ready

Fuel-efficient technologies to be emphasized

By BRENT SNAVELY

Free Press Business Writer

Ford's sprawling assembly complex in Wayne will be the centerpiece of the Dearborn automaker's plans to become a maker of fuel-efficient vehicles using a variety of technologies: gasoline engines, traditional gasoline-electric hybrids, plug-in hybrids and battery-powered electrics.

On Tuesday, Ford said it has completed a $550-million renovation of Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, where Ford plans to build its redesigned Ford Focus, which will be offered with a gasoline and a battery-powered electric powertrain, as well as one more compact vehicle with the other two powertrains. That vehicle has not been identified.

"For many years, I have had this vision of a green Ford Motor Company, but the technology didn't really exist," Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford said Tuesday. "We now have that ...and we are electrifying mainstream vehicles."

Ford's transformation of Michigan Assembly is part of Ford's global effort to build more cars and trucks off of common platforms.

"One of the things that people are ... underemphasizing about our recovery is that we couldn't have done this without these global platforms that we've never had before," Ford said.

This year, the automaker has already made a profit of about $6.4 billion -- putting the company on track to report its biggest profit since 1998 -- and 2011 should be even better.

"We do see continued improvement for us next year," Ford said.

At Michigan Assembly, where Ford previously built its big Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator SUVs, the company has already built about 400 Ford Focus compact sedans and hatchbacks that it can sell.

Full production of the gasoline-powered Focus, which is expected to get 40 m.p.g. on the highway, will start to ramp up on Jan. 3 when about 3,200 workers transfer from the nearby Wayne Assembly Plant to Michigan Assembly.

By late 2011, Ford will begin producing a battery-powered version of the Focus with a targeted range of 100 miles.

In 2012, Ford will start producing a next-generation gasoline-hybrid vehicle and a plug-in hybrid vehicle in 2012. The company declined to say on Tuesday whether the hybrid and electric vehicles would be cars or crossovers and declined to discuss how much they will cost.

"Ford has probably the most robust electrification plan of anybody," said Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally.

Nevertheless, General Motors is set to deliver its Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle to its first customers this week while Nissan delivered its battery-powered Nissan Leaf to its first customer last weekend.

Jay Baron, president of the Center for Automotive Research, said Ford deserves credit for investing in its plants to make them more flexible than they were in the past.

However, Baron said, Nissan is building both its battery-powered Nissan Leaf and its Nissan Altima sedan on the same assembly line at its plant in Smyrna, Tenn.

Read more: Ford Wayne plant rehab ready | freep.com | Detroit Free Press http://www.freep.com/article/20101215/BUSINESS01/12150384/Ford-Wayne-plant-rehab-ready#ixzz18BgSd5vX

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