Ford plans $1.3 billion upgrade of Kentucky truck plant
Nearly a quarter of the 8,500 “new or secured” jobs that Ford Motor Co. promised the UAW in its newly ratified contract will be at the Louisville, Ky., plant that’s preparing to build aluminum-bodied Super Duty pickups.
Ford announced a $1.3 billion investment in its Kentucky Truck Plant to support the redesigned Super Duty. In a statement today, the company said the retooling and expansion, including a new body shop, will create 2,000 jobs at the plant, which currently employs about 4,400 workers.
Most of the 2,000 jobs will be new hires, though some may be filled by employees moving from other plants, according to a source briefed on the plan.
The jobs help Ford fulfill its commitments under the new UAW contract, but the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the formal announcement, said much of the investment is tied to the previous contract signed in 2011. That deal promised a $621 million investment in Kentucky Truck, while the new contract earmarks an additional $600 million for the plant.
“Adding new jobs and more investment at Kentucky Truck Plant not only secures a solid foundation for our UAW members, but also strengthens the communities in which they live, work and play,” UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles said in a statement released by Ford.
Ford says the 2017 Super Duty, scheduled to go on sale late next year, will be up to 350 pounds lighter than the current version but have longer cabs and improved towing and payload capacity. Sources have told Automotive News that production will start in May.
The changeover will be much faster and less disruptive than it was for the F-150, which involved several months of down time at two plants to convert their body shops and make other upgrades. Ford spent nearly $2 billion to upgrade its Kansas City Assembly and Dearborn Truck plants, along with related parts and stamping plants.
By building a completely new body shop at Kentucky Truck, production of the current Super Duty can continue until the company commences production of the new version. That means Ford won’t have to manage inventories of the Super Duty as carefully.
“It will be a normal launch,” CEO Mark Fields said on Ford’s third-quarter earnings call Oct. 27. “We’ll handle it during the shutdown periods, during the vacations, and we’ll be up and running.”
The investment is expected to help prepare the plant for building aluminum-bodied Ford Expeditions and Lincoln Navigators as soon as 2017. Ford has not confirmed reports in Automotive News and elsewhere that the next generation of its full-size SUVs, which are built alongside the Super Duty F-250, F-350, F-450 and F-550 pickups and chassis cabs, will have aluminum bodies.
The UAW said Ford committed to keep building the Expedition and Navigator at Kentucky Truck with the help of a “major investment.”
In addition, Ford told the UAW it would invest $700 million in the nearby Louisville Assembly Plant, which will soon start building the refreshed Escape crossover.
At Kentucky Truck, filings that Ford made in September with Louisville economic development officials show a 288,715-square-foot expansion to the existing 6 million square feet, according to Louisville Business First.
“This tremendous investment and commitment to new job creation reconfirms the strength of a more than century-long relationship between Kentucky and Ford Motor Co.,” Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear said in Ford’s statement today.
The Super Duty accounts for roughly one third of total F-series sales, which were up 1.5 percent to 629, 951 vehicles this year through October.