Sunday 6 July 2014

SOP date set for Ford's 2015 F-150 truck

Ford Motor Company’s Dearborn Truck Plant will shut down from 25 August to 21 September to allow engineers to retool for the upcoming 2015 F-150 truck which features an aluminium structure. The order bank opens 16 July.

The plant has built over 2.6 million iconic F-150s since it opened the Dearborn, Michigan facility in 2004. The plant has 3,600 employees who adopt a three-crew operating pattern to put together 1,200 F-150 trucks a day.

Start of production (SOP) for the new benchmark 2015 F-150 truck is set for 20 October. This is an important day in the history of the truck which will not only see a seismic shift away from high-strength steel to aluminium, but will witness the introduction of the company first high-volume gasoline engine with a compacted graphite iron (CGI) vee cylinder block.

Ford, with Audi AG, part of Volkswagen AG, pioneered the introduction of CGI components in passenger vehicles and the F-150 marks a further landmark shift for the Ford Motor Company.

Ford is banking heavily on the new 2.7-litre V6 EcoBoost engine proving successful as it is investing US$500-million in its Lima, Ohio engine plant to build the new engine – the smallest power unit available in its popular pick-up truck.

The investment goes towards outfitting the plant with a new flexible engine assembly system. Ford is renovating some 700,000 square feet of the facility for machining and assembly functions.

The move adds some 300 jobs at the plant, and comes as demand for V6-powered F-150s reaches record-breaking levels.

According to Ford, 57 per cent of customers in 2014 have opted for either the 3.7-litre Duratec or 3.5-litre EcoBoost V6 of their F-150s.

The 2.7-litre EcoBoost has a twin-turbo system and as well as the use of CGI – the same material used in Ford’s 6.7-litre Power Stroke turbo-diesel V8.

Opened in 1957, Ford’s Lima plant employs over 900 people. It is home to the automaker’s 3.5-litre and 3.7-litre Duratec V6 engines. Ford also builds 3.5-litre EcoBoost engine in Ohio at its Cleveland engine plant.

Announcement of the investment in the Lima plant came weeks after Ford announced plans to shift production of F-650 and F-750 medium-duty trucks from Mexico to its assembly plant in Avon Lake, Ohio, near Cleveland early next year.

On 19 May last, Ford celebrated the tenth anniversary of its ‘ground-breaking’ Dearborn Truck Plant (DTP). The centrepiece of the Rouge River Complex, Ford conceived DTP as its vision of ‘sustainable manufacturing’, and has served as a ‘flagship for the company’s next generation of lean and flexible plants’.

The F-150 is part of Ford’s F-series line-up, the US’s best-selling truck for 37 consecutive years, and the US’s best-selling vehicle for 32 years. It is against this back-drop that Ford is launching its new 2.7-litre EcoBoost engine.

On the face of it, an engine could not have a better launch pad to ensure its success.

Meanwhile, high demand for pickup trucks and sports utility vehicles (SUVs) in the US have caused Chrysler, Ford and General Motors (the Big Three) to eliminate or shorten their traditional summer shutdown at many US plants.

Chrysler employees will remain at work at four assembly plants, while Ford will idle at least four plants for only one week. GM will keep one-third of its plants running. June vehicle sales ran at their highest monthly level for eight years.

All of which augers well for the new aluminium-intensive F-150 and its CGI-intensive EcoBoost.

Meanwhile, powertrain executives within Chrysler, having already run the 2.7-litre EcoBoost through their software programs, will no doubt be asking their counterparts at Fiat Group headquarters in Turin, Italy what can be done to respond to the challenge thrown down by Ford. Is there powertrain armoury with the Group available - or upcoming - that can be pencilled in for for future product planning meetings, they will be questioning, having already pressed VM Motori in Cento, Italy to come up with more of the goods on the 3-litre diesel front to save the Ram 1500's bacon.

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