(DETROIT FREE PRESS) - Ford will create 2,350 hourly jobs and invest $773 million in six southeast Michigan plants during the next two years, fueled by Americans' decisions to replace aging cars and trucks.
Neither fiscal cliff anxiety nor Washington dysfunction will derail the automaker's expansion plans for 2013 and beyond.
"We have a lot of investment going on right here in the Detroit area," said Jim Tetreault, Ford vice president, North America manufacturing. "There is lots of good news for southeast Michigan."
The jobs and investments are part of the 2011 UAW contract in which Ford pledge to fill 12,000 jobs and spend $16 billion by 2015 to expand and modernize factories worldwide, including $6.2 billion spent in the U.S.
Nearly all of the jobs will go to new hires. Some people have already been hired at Flat Rock. Applicants can contact the MichiganWorks office closest to each plant. Most interviews are conducted just before new workers are needed.
In southeast Michigan, the automaker will start hiring 1,200 people at its Flat Rock plant in the second quarter of 2013 to begin making the Ford Fusion. Other area plants are expanding.
Notably, the Van Dyke transmission plant expects to make 1 million transmissions this year.
Some of the growth is spillover from a hectic 2012 in which Ford added 400,000 units of annual capacity in North America.
"It was the most launches and capacity adds in a year that I have ever had in my career," Tetreault said.
Ford introduced a new Escape, Focus Electric and ST, C-Max, Fusion and Lincoln MKZ as well as new engines, battery packs, transmissions and hybrid systems, Tetreault said.
"I'm exhausted. We spent a lot of money, and there's a lot more coming," he said.
Ford added 6,500 hourly jobs this year with new shifts at Michigan assembly in Wayne (1,200 jobs), Chicago (1,200), Louisville, Ky., (3,100) and Kansas City, Mo., (800), for a 15% increase in output.
Four recalls of the new Escape and problems with the Fusion were not the result of the crazy pace, Tetreault said, adding the recall issues did not stem from manufacturing.
It will not be as hectic in 2013 as the next series of launches comes late in the year and in early 2014.
The work is part of Ford's strategy of building more models from fewer global platforms.
"We've redone a lot of plants," said Joe Hinrichs, president of the Americas. "All that investment is coming to fruition."
Here is a breakdown of what to expect at area plants:
Michigan Assembly: Ford has already spent much of the $297 million allocated for this factory through 2015. It added a third crew of 1,200 workers in May. The work force makes the Ford Focus, Focus ST, Focus Electric, C-Max hybrid and C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid.
Ford is spending about $60 million to grow from four to six stamping presses at the plant as it in-sourced work done previously by suppliers.
Dearborn Stamping: Ford is spending $305 million to more than double capacity with four new press lines for the next-generation F-Series. "They're going in now," Tetreault said.
The work, which includes raising the roof and digging huge holes to install the new presses, started in March. Equipment will be brought in over the next six months.
Flat Rock: The old body shop for the Mazda6 is gone, and eventually, the current body shop for the Ford Mustang also will be history. The new body shop will be more flexible to stamp out body panels for the Fusion, the next-generation Mustang and other vehicles still to be officially confirmed. Ford is investing $161 million during the next six months to prepare for the Fusion.
Ford is betting that the economic recovery and the popularity of its new midsize sedan will require more production than its Hermosillo, Mexico, plant can churn out.
Sterling Axle: "We're really investing in the axle business to stay in it," Tetreault said of the $86 million to add lines to make parts for all-wheel-drive large cars, crossovers, pickups and commercial vans. "It's a significant investment in new product not made in the plant before," he said.
Van Dyke Transmission: Resources from other plants, including Japanese suppliers who previous made hybrid transmissions now assembled here, are being consolidated at an expanded Van Dyke facility that has already added jobs.
Ford will invest nearly $88 million on new machinery and equipment, the bulk of that in 2013, to be able to make more than 1 million front-wheel-drive and hybrid transmissions annually. By 2015, Ford will have spent $220 million at Van Dyke, which will be able to produce for almost 80% of Ford's North American vehicles.
Livonia Transmission: Ford is spending almost $75 million to add a second line to expand capacity to supply rear-drive transmissions for the F-Series and Ranger pickups. This plant absorbed Ford employees from the Saline ACH plant.
Detroit Free Press