Tuesday, 1 December 2015
Ford bolsters Kentucky for 2017 Super Duty
Pickup trucks are vital to profits at Ford Motor Company, hence its announcement of a $1.3 billion investment in its Kentucky Truck Plant to support the redesigned 2017 Super Duty truck range.
THE 2017 Super Duty trucks – F-250, F-350 and F-450 – will have engines that Ford claims it has improved.
Although no power and torque figures are yet available the engines will comprise the 6.2-litre V8 CNG-available and V10 6.8-litre CNG-available units as well as the 6.7-litre V8 Power Stroke diesel engine built in Chihuahua, Mexico.
Ford said retooling and expansion, including a new body shop, would create 2,000 jobs at the plant now being prepared to build aluminum-intensive Super Duty pickups. The plant currently employs about 4,400 workers.
The Super Duty accounts for around one-third of total F-series sales, which were up 1.5 per cent to 629, 951 vehicles this year through to the end of October.
Ford has pledged the United Auto Workers (UAW) that a quarter of the ‘new or secured’ jobs agreed in its newly-ratified contract would be sited at the Louisville, Kentucky, plant being prepared to build aluminum-intensive Super Duty pickups.
Ford says most of the 2,000 jobs will be new hires, though some may be filled by employees moved from other plants, according to sources.
Ford is keen to avoid mistakes of the past claiming the changeover will be faster and less disruptive than for the F-150, which involved several months of down time at two plants to convert their body shops and make other upgrades.
Ford spent nearly $2 billion upgrading its Kansas City Assembly and Dearborn Truck plants, along with related parts and stamping plants. It was these that stymied production start-up.
But by building a completely new body shop at the Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville, production of the current Super Duty can continue until the company is ready to switch production to the 2017 model. Ford not have to manage inventories of the Super Duty quite as carefully.
Sources suspect a touch of ‘smoke and mirrors’ about Ford’s announcement as some investment is tied to a contract signed in 2011 promising a $621 million for the Kentucky Truck Plant, while the new contract earmarks an additional $600 million for the plant.
“Adding new jobs and more investment at Kentucky Truck Plant not only secures a solid foundation for our UAW members, but also strengthens the communities in which they live, work and play,” said UAW vice president Jimmy Settles predictably in a statement.
Production of the 2017 Super Duty is due to start in May ready for sales to kick off later in the year. Trucks will be up to 350lb lighter than the current version yet have longer cabs and improved towing and payload capacity.
It is expected the new body shop is associated with a 288,715-square-foot expansion to the existing 6 million square feet.
“The launch will be a normal,” chief executive officer Mark Fields predicted reassuringly a month ago. “We’ll handle it during the shutdown periods, during the vacations, and we’ll be up and running.”
The rumour mill suggests new investment is expected to bolster the plant for building aluminum-bodied Ford Expeditions and Lincoln Navigators as soon as 2017 and to be built alongside Super Duty F-250, F-350, F-450 and F-550 pickups and chassis cabs with their aluminium-intensive bodies.
The UAW claims Ford is committed to keeping Expedition and Navigator at the Kentucky Truck Plant using a “major investment.”
Sources say Ford told the UAW it would invest $700 million in the nearby Louisville Assembly Plant, which will soon start building the refreshed Escape crossover.