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Ford has found a way to turn a lemon into lemonade. Its Michigan Truck Plant that formerly built the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator will be building something else entirely in the future: small cars and electric vehicles. Ford announced today it's investing $550 million in the plant to create a modern, efficient and flexible facility where the next-generation, North American version of the global Focus will be built, along with an all-electric version of the car. The next Focus will begin production here as soon as next year, while the EV version debuts in 2011. Ford's getting some help from state and local governments in the form of tax credits to switch the plant's purpose, but many are based on job retention targets that should mean all 3,200 people who work there now will continue to do so.

The plant, which will now be called just Michigan Assembly Plant, shall soon be joined by two more plants that are switching from producing trucks and SUVs to small cars. Cuautitlan Assembly in Mexico has been chosen to build the new North American version of the Fiesta subcompact and Louisville Assembly, once the producer of Super Duty trucks, will be given another vehicle to build based on the global Focus platform.
[Source: Ford]



* Ford invests $550 million to transform Michigan Assembly Plant (formerly Michigan Truck Plant) from a large SUV factory into a modern, flexible small car plant
* Production for the North American market of the new global Ford Focus begins next year followed by production in 2011 of a battery-electric Focus, helping Ford meet its promise of delivering four new electric vehicles in the U.S. by 2012
* The investment will support approximately 3,200 jobs at Michigan Assembly
* Ford and United Auto Workers are developing a framework of new and leading-edge operating practices at the plant that will ensure high quality and maximum efficiency
* The state of Michigan and local governments provided tax incentives and grants that enabled the investment in Michigan Assembly, which will be designated as the state's first automotive technology anchor site.

Supporting Materials

WAYNE, Mich., May 6, 2009 – Ford Motor Company said today it is investing $550 million to transform its Michigan Assembly Plant into a lean, green and flexible manufacturing complex that will build Ford's next-generation Focus global small car along with a new battery-electric version of the Focus for the North American market.

The plant, formerly the production site for Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigators SUVs, is one of three North American light truck plants Ford is retooling to build fuel-efficient global small cars in the coming years. The new Focus will begin rolling off the line next year and the battery-electric version of the Focus – Ford's first all-electric passenger car – debuts in 2011.

As part of the retooling, Ford will consolidate its operations from Wayne Assembly Plant. When production launches in 2010, approximately 3,200 employees will be building the new Focus at Michigan Assembly Plant. At the plant, Ford and United Auto Workers are developing modern new operating practices to ensure high quality and even greater efficiency.

"The transformation of Michigan Assembly Plant embodies the larger transformation under way at Ford," said Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally. "This is about investing in modern, efficient and flexible American manufacturing. It is about fuel economy and the electrification of vehicles. It is about leveraging our expertise and vehicle platforms around the world and partnering with the UAW to deliver best-in-class global small cars. It is about skilled and motivated teams working together in new ways to create the future of automobile manufacturing in the United States."

The reinvention of Michigan Assembly, once one of the world's most profitable auto plants during the SUV boom of the late 1990s, is rooted in the fundamental strategic shift by Ford to leverage its global assets to bring six world-class small cars to the American market by the end of 2012. To produce the vehicles, Ford is converting three truck and SUV plants to car plants – Michigan Assembly, Cuautitlan Assembly in Mexico, which begins building the new Fiesta subcompact early next year; and Louisville (Ky.) Assembly, which will be converted to produce small vehicles from Ford's global Focus platform beginning in 2011.

The new Focus is being developed in Europe – where Ford is a leader in small cars – off a new global C-car platform. Over time, the new platform will be the basis for more than 2 million units annually around the world, including Focus and other derivatives, allowing Ford to leverage economies of scale to improve investment efficiency.

The zero-emission Focus battery-electric vehicle, which is being developed in partnership with Magna International, features a high-voltage electric motor powered by a high capacity Lithium Ion battery pack and charged by plugging in to a 110-volt or 220-volt outlet. The vehicle is one part of a larger strategy Ford announced in January to develop electric vehicles for North America quickly and affordably by leveraging its global platform capability.

In addition to the Focus battery electric vehicle, Ford is collaborating with Smith Electric to sell a Transit Connect battery electric commercial vehicle for North America in 2010. Ford's product plans also include a next-generation hybrid vehicle in 2012 and a plug-in hybrid vehicle in 2012.

"We're changing from a company focused mainly on trucks and SUVs to a company with a balanced product lineup that includes even more high-quality, fuel-efficient small cars, hybrids and all-electric vehicles," said Mark Fields, Ford's president of The Americas. "As customers move to more fuel-efficient vehicles, we'll be there with more of the products they really want."

Investing in American manufacturing
The $550 million investment in Michigan Assembly includes more than $430 million in manufacturing investment at the site, as well as $120 million for launch and engineering costs. In addition, Ford will be making significant investment in supplier tooling to support the plant.

The state of Michigan, Wayne County and the city of Wayne contributed more than $160 million in tax credits and grants to support Ford's expansion opportunities. Key elements include:

* Tax incentives based on job retention at the site;
* A Brownfield tax incentive for economic rehabilitation of the site;
* Tax incentives to support integration of advanced batteries into new product development programs and
* Local property tax incentives for new investments at the site

Michigan Assembly Plant will be designated as the state's first automotive technology anchor site. This designation will support Ford's efforts by providing additional tax incentives to locate advanced technology suppliers in Michigan, related to future automotive technology applications.

"Ford is investing in both the future of the American auto industry and the state of Michigan by bringing together world-class products, advanced technology applications and strong partnerships with the UAW to build the next generation of vehicles that will help end our nation's dependence on foreign oil," Granholm said. "In these challenging economic times, we applaud and appreciate Ford's commitment to Michigan and to our talented workforce."

Michigan Assembly Transformation
At the heart of the plant's manufacturing transformation is a flexible body shop operation, which uses reprogrammable tooling in the body shop, standardized equipment in the paint shop and a common-build sequence in final assembly, enabling production of multiple models in the same plant.

Aiding in the implementation of flexible manufacturing is Ford's industry-leading virtual manufacturing technology. In the virtual world, engineers and plant operators evaluate tooling and product interfaces before costly installations are made on the plant floor. This method of collaboration improves launch quality and enables speed of execution.

In a flexible body shop, at least 80 percent of the robotic equipment can be programmed to weld various sized vehicles. This "non-product specific" equipment gives the body shop its flexibility and provides more efficient use of the facility.

The plant also will employ an efficient, synchronous material flow, where the material will move in kits to each operator, providing employees with the tools they need in the sequence they will need them. The plant features an integrated stamping facility, which allows the stamping and welding of all large sheet-metal parts on-site, ensuring maximum quality and minimum overhead.

Modern Work Rules
Along with the physical transformation at Michigan Assembly Plant, the UAW and Ford are working on a framework of new and class-leading operating practices that will enable the plant to operate at a high level of productivity while producing best-in-class quality products in a safe work environment.

As part of this framework, Ford and the UAW are committed to establishing a strong, progressive culture at Michigan Assembly Plant that is based on teamwork, joint problem solving and continuous improvement.

"The UAW is a key partner in enabling us to build these world-class vehicles competitively in the United States," said Joe Hinrichs, group vice president, Global Manufacturing and Labor Affairs. "This agreement will allow the work force to build on their quality commitment while improving productivity at the plant."

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      Ford will still have plenty of truck capacity left and if the market for Trucks goes crazy they will have no problem talking the local government in one of the many places they have idle plants into helping pay to retool a plant and hire some workers. These plants need modernization anyway to be competitive. It would be foolish for them to sit back on their heels paying workers and maintaining empty plants waiting for F-150 sales to rebound. That would be the kind of move that got the Big 3 into this mess.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I used to live in Wayne MI and used to pass adn still pass by the Ford Wayne assembly plant.
      it's a sad site to see if all empty and i've known this story for a long while now. I'm glad to hear that all 3200 employes will be back. that'll keep the other business around it keep hope alive and maybe push on luck to stay open till those workers come back to work.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I live near the St. Paul Ford plant, and saw a few cloaked trucks drive by in my neighborhood, but never was quick enough with the camera.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Is the demand really shifting so far away from trucks (permanently) that swapping THREE plants is wise? I don't know if this is a solid idea or not.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Dear Joe,

        Who the hell is stopping you from buying whatever crap you "want"?

        The observation is that more and more people will buy things/cars based on their "needs". Thanks to recent economic downturn, people are now very likely to ask "do I really need this".

        No doubt there will be some dumb nuts who will "want want want" things and their decisions will be based on "wants". This group is likely to get smaller.

        Nobody is taking away your freedom to make wrong decisions, you are still 100% entitled to it.

        • 6 Years Ago
        I think the idea behind the changes to the plant is to make them more flexible. Right now, the plant can only be used for larger vehicles like trucks and SUVs, but after the upgrade, it will be able to be used for vehicles of many sizes (but to start, focused on small). If demand changes toward a different segment, the plant can easily produce a different segment of vehicle with little to no changes.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Do you "need" a sports car? Do you "need" a boat? Do you really need to have a family sedan with 300 hp? Is air conditioning really needed since humans have existed for many thousands of years without it?

        It isn't about what is needed but what people want. People want trucks like they want sports cars...How many people use a sports car to the full potential? No one. There will always be demand for trucks, SUVs and sports cars.

        Ford is just doing what they are supposed to be doing: Fixing the weakest area of their business model.
        • 6 Years Ago
        This is mostly to Joe:

        I don't understand the quip about "The United States of Obama" taking away your freedom. How is Ford tooling up plants to build a small car affecting your choice to buy whatever your want?

        You are still free to buy your Mustang GT, or your F150. However, the market as a whole (individuals like you and I are not the whole market) has requested smaller cars, so Ford is working up to meet that demand.

        If anything, it gives all of us more choice, not less. Not everyone thinks as you and I do: just because we like driving a Mustang GT doesn't mean our neighbors do.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Joe, since the government will be running GM and Chrysler, I think we can expect them to shift production to much smaller fuel efficient vehicles. Nancy Pelosi will certainly work to get the Government Motors to stop building large SUVs. It is funny if you think about it. The politicians have been blaming global warming and our dependence on foreign oil on the American auto industry. They will learn that simply making small fuel efficient vehicles doesn’t mean they will sell. Things are going to get very interesting.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Does it matter if anyone really needs their truck for work?

        This used to be the United States of America, where people were free to decide which vehicles they wanted to purchase, regardless of need or requirements.

        Unfortunately, in the United States of Obama, there's this new push to shame people for buying vehicles they don't need.

        I don't NEED a 320 HP Mustang GT. In fact, with the amount of Home Depot runs and dog hauling I do, a F-150 would probably be a better choice. I LIKE driving my Mustang GT, though, so that's what I bought.
      • 6 Years Ago
      "... will be given another vehicle to build based on the global Focus platform."

      Ford Kuga!
        • 6 Years Ago
        or maybe C-max?
        • 6 Years Ago
        Len_A: And you never take PICTURES??
        • 6 Years Ago
        The other vehicle built on world Focus platform will be a Mercury Capri, with a convertible version. Neighbor of mine is in Ford product development. I get to see all kinds of interesting stuff parked in his driveway. :)
        • 6 Years Ago
        I am going to hope for one better than that. Hopefully they build a Flex line and can build both Kuga and C-Max there. That would be awesome. Alan Mulally is turning out to be the best thing that happened to Ford in a generation. For all the trash talk about planes and CEO pay this guy appears to be worth every penny.
        • 6 Years Ago
        @Rabbi Mike - Believe me, I've been VERY tempted, BUT...I don't want to get my neighbor in trouble. I could definitely use the bucks from selling such spy photos, but his house and address would be in plain view, and I know a few knuckleheads that got disciplined for getting caught like that.
      • 6 Years Ago
      This is old news, they've been working on it for months now. Don't worry about Ford's truck capacity, they still have the capability to build many more trucks than they currently are.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I will be holding on to my Navigator L for quite a wile as I do not see a need to by a small electric chair to drive down the hwy.

      As for me and my family we choose to pay a little bit for fuel and actually live...
        • 6 Years Ago
        Nice talking point. It's the same thing with you greenie's all the time...

        "Don't drive your big car because you're forcing the price of gas up and using a finite resource."

        Guess what...increased consumption of fuel oil from China is of a much bigger impact on the price and availability of gas and oil than Americans driving trucks.

        Go back to the drum circle, patchouli boy.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Thanks for consuming 2X more of a finite resource than I do, all so you can "live." The problem is, your actions affect the rest of us. You're taking the most convenient material ever found for use as a transportation fuel and wasting it by driving a giant brick down at the highway.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Actually I home office and my kids walk 3-blocks to school.

        So I am actually using about 1/3 of what most people in So Cal use in there econ-o-box commuter drivers use.

        "Judge not less ye be Judged..."
        • 6 Years Ago
        "Donald" you will be looking really stupid when gas is $4.50 a gallon and your Navi is worth less than a Ford Escort. And how is being an idiot and wasting money on gas "living"?? You get inner fulfillment based off how rich you make Exxon??
      • 6 Years Ago
      The Louisville plant that is getting retooled is the one that makes Explorers not Super Duties!

        • 6 Years Ago
        Louisville Assembly, which is located on the city's south side near Louisville International Airport, now builds Explorers, as has been mentioned. Just not as many of them. That plant has more lives than a cat: It opened in 1955 and was the sole plant to build Edsels after the '58 model year. Later, full-size Ford and Mercury cars were built there. Then, in the early '80s, the plant was retooled to build the Ranger, the Bronco II, and later the Explorer/Mountaineer/Sport Trac. Rangers were last built at LAP in 1999.

        Kentucky Truck Plant (KTP) used to build the heavy "Louisville Line" (L-series) trucks, which later were sold off to Freightliner and became the Sterling line. KTP has never built a car in its 40-year history; the Expedition and Navigator will be the first passenger-type vehicles (not trucks) built there.
      • 6 Years Ago
      On the way to the #1 car company in the WORLD !!!!!!!!!!!!
      • 6 Years Ago
      Lousiville builds Explorer not Super Dutty. Kentucky Truck Plant builds Super Duty (I think it is actually located in Lousville though). This means they will build trucks in Dearborn and in Kentucky, I imagine that's all they're going to need unless gas prices stay down indefinately. People are scared now and they are not buying trucks.

      For all the armchair quarterbacks who like to harp on truck owners, you can all go back to your Civics and Corollas and shove it. Do you do anything yourself? Getting sheets of drywall, building materials, racing equipment (not to mention pulilng a car trailer), etc. in a compact car is not doable. Some people take pride in doing things themselves. I just remodeled my kitchen and I couldn't have done it without a truck of some kind. Borrowing one is fine if you don't do much home improvement or other projects but for those of us who take pride in doing it ourselves, we need trucks to get things done. Just because I work a white collar job doesn't mean I don't have use for a truck. Plus I live within 2 miles of my office so I'm not spending tons of money or spewing lots of emissions into the atmosphere like someone driving 50 miles one way to work in a smaller car (not that I buy all this global warming crap).
      • 6 Years Ago
      This is a good idea. helps make it easy to adapt to market shifts.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Go Ford!
      • 6 Years Ago
      If the next Focus could be produced there as early as next year (as stated in the article), how come basically nothing is known about it at all? I think I've seen maybe one spy mule (which is covered with the current US version ugly body) and there was that weird yellow concept C-max type thing at a Euro autoshow. How could so little be known about a car that is supposedly that close to production, especially when we've been hearing about the new Fiesta for about 6 years now it seems.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Well, right, the basics about the platform and spec expectations are known in a general sense, and obviously Ford internally knows about it since they are making it. I was more thinking out loud about how the details of this car have been very hard to come by compared to other small cars that are coming out soon. We've been hearing about and seeing things about the Cruze from GM for a long time, we've seen Fiesta info forever it seems, but we don't see much about the Focus.

        What body styles will be sold here? Does anyone know?

        Is it going to go on sale here the same time it does in Europe? If so, I guess that could explain a lot as far as us not knowing much about it yet--the Fiesta and Cruze both hit markets elsewhere long before they will appear here, and that's part of why we know so much about them already.
        • 6 Years Ago
        there is actually quite a bit known about it. just not in the general public or forums.

        the new focus will ride on c2 platform, which is the next generation platform of the euro focus platform. quite a few focus derivatives will ride on the same platform. including focus, cmax and bmax vans/hatches for mercury, a new capri (focus convertible), and the kuga which will converge with the escape here.

        the new focus is expected on preliminary data to hit 40mpg hwy in base form. soft touch materials throughout, and some very luxury features. similar luxury items as they have in europe focus: like eatc, push button start, and the auto will be a dual clutch "powershift" transmission.
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