Ford Motor Co marked the upgrade of its Louisville, Kentucky, assembly plant on Wednesday, which features a new body, paint and trim assembly lines. The plant produced Ford Explorers from the early 1990s until late 2010.
The plant’s hourly workforce will swell to about 4,200 once a third shift is added this fall, Ford said.
The Dearborn-based automaker said the facility, which will produce the new 2013 Ford Escape, is its mots most flexible U.S. plant.
As part of the upgrade, Ford installed new tooling and improved equipment in the plant’s final assembly area and body shop, including more than 1,000 robots and 20 miles of conveyors. Reprogrammable tooling in the body shop allows the plant to produce multiple vehicle models at the same time without requiring downtime for tooling changeover.
Suppliers, including Magna, Faurecia, Martinrea and Piston Automotive, have invested more than $56 million in Louisville, adding more than 900 jobs, mostly to support the new Escape.
Ford said it has added more than 5,200 hourly paid jobs in the United States this year and when the Louisville plant’s third shift goes to work, more than half of the 12,000 new U.S. hourly jobs it committed to add by 2015 will be on the payroll. Ford made that commitment in early 2011.