DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. will add workers and capacity at its Kansas City Assembly Plant in Missouri to build more F-150 pickups, its best-selling vehicle. But the company remains parts-constrained on the Ford Explorer crossover, the Ford vehicle with tightest inventories, said Joe Hinrichs, Ford's president of the Americas.
Ford will hire 2,000 workers at Kansas City to meet increased demand for F-150 pickups and for the upcoming production of the new Transit family of commercial vehicles.
The increases will come in two phases. Ford will add 900 jobs and a third work crew in the third quarter to build F-150s. Ford then will hire an additional 1,100 workers starting in the fourth quarter to gear up for production of the Ford Transit commercial van, which begins in 2014.
In a phone interview from Kansas City, Hinrichs declined to say how much capacity Kansas City will add.
Riding a housing recovery that's spurring pickup sales, U.S. sales of F-series pickups shot up 24 percent in April and is up 19 percent so far this year.
"Replacement demand plus housing growth plus other sectors like the oil sector plus the overall economy" are pushing pickup sales higher, Hinrichs said. "We've done a lot of research. We're confident this will sustain itself."
Through March, Ford built 231,607 F-series pickups, including the Super Duty version, in the United States at assembly plants in Kansas City; Dearborn, Mich.; and Louisville, Ky. That's up 18 percent from a year earlier, according to the Automotive News Data Center.
The Kansas City plant builds the F-150 Super Cab, Super Crew Cab and Super King Cab. Its F-150 output in the first quarter jumped 89 percent to 69,062, narrowly ahead of Louisville's 68,597 but well behind Dearborn's 93,948.
Meanwhile, Explorer output at Ford's Chicago plant is limited because "the supply base is not up to" meeting Ford's assembly capacity there, he said.
In April, sales of the Ford Explorer rose 10 percent to 15,440 from a year earlier. But sales were limited by availability: As of April 1, Ford had a 32-day supply of Explorers, according to the Automotive News Data Center. Sixty days is considered optimal. On April 1, Ford had an 85-day supply of F-series pickups.
Ford says its second-quarter North American production will rise 9 percent from the year-earlier level to 800,000 units.
On the surface, that looks like a 2 percent jump to 800,000 in the second quarter, from 784,269 in the first. But the second quarter will have 64 days of production, compared with 61 days in the first. So Ford's production per day will drop to 12,500 units in the second quarter, from 12,856 in the first.
Over the past year, Ford has added 400,000 units of capacity to its plants in North America, largely through adding third shifts.
James B. Treece contributed to this report