DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. has launched an assembly line in its Van Dyke transmission plant to produce front-wheel-drive hybrid transmissions.
Ford created the line to produce its new HF35 hybrid transmission and the 6F35, a conventional six-speed automatic transmission.
The operation is a $220 million project paid for by Ford and its suppliers, and is part of a $632 million effort to boost capacity and flexibility at the company's three North American transmission plants by 2015.
The flex line at the suburban Detroit plant will allow workers to build HF35 and 6F35 transmissions simultaneously.
Ford said the new line and other changes at the plant will add 225 jobs. The company said 130 workers have started and the remaining 95 are scheduled to start by the end of August.
The HF35 is the first hybrid transmission designed and built by Ford. Its hybrid transmissions had been made by Japanese supplier Aisin Seiki. Ford said by developing its own hybrid transmissions, it cut development costs 20 percent.
Jim Tetreault, Ford's vice president of North America manufacturing, said in a statement that the improvements are a milestone for the company's North American operations.
"Our investments in Van Dyke transmission make it our most advanced, efficient transmission plant in the world," Tetreault said. "This demonstrates our commitment to bringing jobs and technology back into Ford and North America -- actions that not only benefit our employees but our customers and the communities where we do business."
The Van Dyke plant now has 1,350 workers.
The HF35 transmission will be used in five upcoming vehicles: the C-Max Hybrid, the C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid, the Fusion Hybrid, the Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid and the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid.