DETROIT - Ford Motor Co. on Wednesday said it will start assembling the Escape sport-utility at its Ohio Assembly Plant in Avon Lake in summer 2003.
The move will add at least 45,000 units of Escape production annually. Ford already builds about 200,000 Escapes a year at its Kansas City Assembly Plant.
The project is contingent on Ford receiving incentives from Ohio state and local governments. Incentives include training funds, grants and tax abatements. The state offer is contingent on a Ford investment of $140 million in the plant and job guarantees.
"Those negotiations are going very well," said Ford spokeswoman Della DiPietro.
U.S. Escape sales for the first three months of this year dropped 28.6 percent to 29,964 units from the same period a year ago. Escape sales in 2001 were 164,184 units. Ford put the Escape on the market in August 2000. The automaker sold 42,635 units in 2000.
Ford will stop making the Mercury Villager and Nissan Quest minivans at the plant at the end of June. The stoppage will result in about 800 layoffs. Moving Escape production to Ohio Assembly next year will reintroduce 800 jobs there.
The plant will continue to make Ford Econoline and Club Wagon van bodies.