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Workers at the Flat Rock plant celebrated last Septembe... Workers at the Flat Rock plant celebrated last September when Ford executives came to regain control of the plant. (Ford)
Ford's new Fusion sedan, chosen as AOL Autos Car of the Year for 2012, is not only the style-king of the current flock of mid-sized sedans, but an example of how companies are bringing jobs back to the U.S. after previously flocking to cheaper-wage countries like Mexico.

Production of the new Fusion, built in Hermosillo, Mexico, for the past six years is moving in a few months to Flat Rock, Mich., to a plant jointly owned by Ford and Mazda. Because Ford plans to build so many vehicles at the plant, it took over 100% of the production lines and hired an additional 1,200 workers at the facility, which is about 25 miles south of Detroit. Ford also builds the Mustang at the plant, and plans to move the next generation design of the Taurus and Lincoln MKS sedans there as well.

"I can't underestimate how important the Fusion is to Ford," said Mark Fields, chief operating officer of Ford. "It's an all-out battle for the American garage, and Ford is in it to fight to win." Flat Rock is part of an overall plan for Ford to add 12,000 jobs in the U.S. between now and 2016.

The Fusion has received a lot of accolades thus far besides its award from AOL Autos. It was a runner-up got the Cadillac ATS for North American Car of the Year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also awarded the car a five-star rating in its New Car Assessment Program testing.

Even Consumer Reports, which lately has been hard on Ford, said the car "hits a lot of high notes," but did gripe about the MyFord Touch infotainment system, which has been a consistent complaint from the testing organization across the Ford lineup. AOL Autos testers, however, have found that the system has improved significantly since it was first launched and feel buyers will get used to the system fairly quickly after purchase.

The styling of the car and the overall fit and finish of the car's workmanship is what makes the Fusion a legitimate challenger to three imports ahead of Fusion--Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima. Ironically, all three of those foreign-branded cars have been made in the U.S. while the Fusion had been made in Mexico.
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Ford is hiring workers for a second shift at the Flat Rock plant this spring. Some of them will be new, but others will be workers who were laid off at other Ford plants. The company has also invested $555 million in new equipment at the 25-year-old plant to make the Fusion.

Why move back to the U.S.?

The labor contracts Ford cut with the United Auto Workers in 2007 and 2011 lowered the company's overall labor costs, and part of the deal with the union was to move the Fusion back to the U.S. Previously, the plant sat on a bubble at Ford, possibly facing closure.

"We re-assess where we build our vehicles every time we redesign one," said Fields. "What has happened for us is that we have made our U.S. plants like Flat Rock and Wayne Assembly (where the C-max is built) as flexible as our rivals (Toyota and Honda), and the total picture now for labor costs, productivity and especially worker quality has made the U.S. locations very desirable."

The Fusion's return to the U.S. is a big victory for the UAW. The car has potential to pass Altima and Accord in sales. Passing Toyota Camry, the top seller, is a steeper climb because Toyota can build more Camrys than Ford can build Fusions. Ford's Taurus in the early 1990s was the best selling car in America. And the Atlanta, Georgia plant that built it was regularly recognized as one of the top plants in North America for quality. Still, when Ford botched the redesign of the Taurus in the mid 1990s, it set off the car's decline and the company ultimately closed that plant in 2006.

The auto industry is not the only one in-sourcing jobs back to the U.S. General Electric has been re-tooling a facility in Louisville, Ky., to make high-tech refrigerators and low energy hot-water heaters that were previously built in China. Element Electronics last year opened up a plant in Canton, Mich., to build large flat-panel TVs. Apple is moving one of its Mac computer production lines to the U.S. next year.

When China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, the average Chinese worker made 58 cents per hour - a cost that had companies around the world flocking to the country that has become known for cheap labor. Every year since, according to the WTO, wages in China have risen an average of 15 to 20 percent annually. Add energy costs on top of that, plus logistics costs and quality issues, and building products sold in the U.S. in the U.S. becomes much more attractive, especially as unions have negotiated contracts that close the cost gap.

Mexico, which benefits from the North American Free Trade Agreement, is still an attractive market for low-cost manufacturing because of lower wages and health-care costs than the U.S., but U.S. unions have struck deals that have made it advantageous for many companies to repatriate jobs to the U.S.

Ford is one of the leaders on in-sourcing. Ford's Fields, who figures to be the company's next CEO, says the automaker plans to invest $16 billion in its U.S. facilities while adding the 12,000 new American jobs by 2015. Helping to make that business case is that industry auto sales are expected to stay steady at between 14.5 and 15.5 million a year for the next few years as the economy continues to come back.

To take full advantage, Ford execs and designers have to do their part and not repeat their mistakes of the mid 1990s when they wrecked the one-time best-selling car in America even while their workers hit the mark for quality and productivity.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 2 Years Ago
      the fusion is a very sharp looking car. keep up the great looking design and better fuel consumption.
      Beverly Tarte
      • 2 Years Ago
      Mexico is still building it. They are just building it over here where most of the amigos are. I love FORDS. Bail that out. pray for our Country and good luck to you all in 2013. Love you all.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Great news for this country. Now only if others will do the same.
      • 2 Years Ago
      I wonder when the stupid unions are gonna stick their noses in and ruin that. I think Ford needs to make these new employees to sign a legal document saying they will not join a union or they will be terminated. The people of Michigan should be grateful these jobs are coming there. The idea of union is good but the reality of unions are bad. It's just like when the President says we are going to tax the upper class more. The idea good but reality bad. The upper class may pay more taxes but we lose jobs or get our hours cut, oh and we end up paying more taxes also.
      • 2 Years Ago
      It's good to see Ford bringing this production back to the United States. Hopefully Americans will start buying American products that are manufactured by American OWNED companies and produced in America. If we would start doing this maybe, just maybe the American economy would get back to where it should be, unemployment will be reduced, and America will once again be a strong nation. Alot of foreign manufacturers do have plants here that employ Americans, but the profitss still go back to their home country. American manufacturers do build cars in other countries. Look at the first digit on the VIN number. If it is a one (1) that vehicle is built in the United States. People will say that the foreign manufacturers build better cars. I call BS on that as I have seen first hand import and domestic vans used in deplorable conditions with the domestic vans holding up better, with a longer life and a per mile cost being much lower than the imports. Wake up and buy American people.
        • 2 Years Ago
        well I have brought American and rented American and they ended up being crap. My toyota Sequoia made in Indiana is still going strong at 130000 miles as well as my wifes Highlander after she had a Crown Vic and a Mercury Marquis and both crapped out around 75000. I had the new Dodge Dart 2 piece of crap and terrible to drive rental with 8K miles on it and owned a Dodge Dakota. Dead On Delivery Garbage Equipment that I took up to 80K but problems started at 3K with AC compressor, gas tank imploding, tie rods going out at 30K, tramission at 40K, computer at 48K and the list goes on. Of course Dodge did nothing except offer to sell me another one with no discount. Sorry I tried but not anymoreunions and lack of quality killed them for me.
          • 2 Years Ago
          I have a 1999 Ford Taurus with the Duratec 4 cam V6. My daughter has it now, and it's a campus beater at the moment. At last inspection, that thing had 199,000 miles on it. It's ugly, but bulletproof. No timing belt failures. It has timing CHAINS. Same radiator, same engine, same tranny, same alternator, starter, water pump, etc etc. Everything works, and it has never failed or left anyone stranded. Admitedly, many Japanese cars hace the same history,BUT that is after you've been gouged for a timing belt, at least twice. If you've ever paid for that job on a Forrunner V8, you might feel differently about "regular maintenance" on some of these Japanese cars. Ever pay for a rotor replacement on a mid 90's Accord? Once the tech has to disassemble the hub to do THAT, you are paying some big money. I will acknowledge that there are numerous examples of American cars that apparently did not meet your standards. What I do not understand is that these Japanese shortcomings always seem to get a "pass" from you guys. Really, you sound like fanboys.Try and be objective and give your nation's manufcaturers another chance. I have two 2012 Fords, and they're great. Having said that, my daughter wants a new Honda when she graduates from college, and I'll probably get her one.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Wonder how long it will take the Auto Unions and goverment rules, to make auto plants, like this one at Ford---------------------------------UNCOMPETITIVE??? Just a matter of time-------------
      • 2 Years Ago
      about time
      • 2 Years Ago
      Ford had it right 100 years ago when he created assembly lines full of workers that were able to actually buy the product that they were assembling. NAFTA made it possible for people who couldn't even afford to buy a hubcap to build cars for others.
      • 2 Years Ago
      FORD a bunch of liers? Check out the Chev. SONIC! 40 mpg advertized with the truth being 20.1 avg, on 90% highway driving. And they wonder why the consumer has NO trust in the dealers AND manufactures. TO think Oboma bailed GM out and what did they do? A NEW CORVETTE! Who the hell needs a government financed Corvette? I would like to see at least 30 mpg from my new sonic. Couldn't afford a Oboma government approved and financed Corvette. I thought I was buying a 35 - 40 mpg GM car.
        • 10 Months Ago
        My 2013 Ford Fiesta highway rating at like 39 mpg. I get 50 mpg on the highway.
      • 2 Years Ago
      This is excellent. Lets hope that four groups take notice: 1) American Consumers who need to understand that buying the cheapest products out there can ruin the economic base of the country, 2) Unions who need to understand that there is a limit to how high wages and benefits can go without jeopardizing the manufacturing industry, 3) Employees who must understand that personal productivity, honesty and integrity are essential to the survival of the company and their jobs, and 4) upper level management, which needs to understand that they cannot pay themselves ridiculously high salaries at the expense of employees.
        • 2 Years Ago
        well said, Lets GO America lets reclaim our place in the World!
        • 2 Years Ago
        on that ridiculously high salaries at the employees expense. we need to be telling the government that also.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Memo to UAW, Make sure your workers don't smoke pot on the job like Chrysler. Build good cars and Americans will support you. Get lazy and go back to old shoddy ways of doing things and those jobs will go south again. Remember Ford didn't take any Obama money so you have to perform. Obama can't help you, only your members can help themselves to better lives.
        • 2 Years Ago
        Why are you calling the auto bail out "Obama money"? GM and Chrysler took government money months before Obama to office, so you meant to write "Bush bucks"....right?
          • 2 Years Ago
          Well if it was Bush bucks how come president zero is taking credit for it every time he opens his mouth. they got it right the first time IT'S OBAMA MONEY.
      • 2 Years Ago
      I am so glad that American Cars are actually coming back to America, I promise you this the next car I buy will Be a Ford, way to go Ford, keep up the Good work
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