Ford to Build Three Electric Models at Green Plant

By dancurranjr On December 18th, 2010

Ford Motor Co. showed off its reborn Michigan Assembly Plant on Tuesday, where in addition to a fuel-efficient, gasoline-powered Focus, the automaker will build hybrid and electric versions of the compact car.

Ford spent $550 million to remake the 1.2 million-square-foot plant, which once produced full-size SUVs, into a flexible car factory. Company officials say Michigan Assembly, the Focus’ global home, will be one of the industry’s most advanced plants, because of its ability to make cars powered by one of four different powertrains.

“This becomes the combination of everything we have talked about for 11/2 years,” Rob Webber, site manager, said on a plant tour.

“It is flexible and global and changing a truck plant to a car plant.”Production of the new gasoline Focus ramps up Jan. 3, on two shifts.

But that’s just the first act. At the end of 2011, Ford will add production of the Focus Electric, which runs on battery power only and will compete against the Nissan Leaf.

And in 2012, a plug-in Focus hybrid goes online. A conventional hybrid version will join the Focus family, too.

“We’ve modernized just about every square inch of this facility to establish a new standard for a high-tech, green, flexible and efficient auto factory,” said Jim Tetreault, vice president of North American manufacturing.

“If the last few years have taught us anything, it is that customer wants and needs can change quickly — much more quickly than we have been equipped to efficiently respond to in the past.”

At Michigan Assembly, he said, “we will achieve a level of flexibility we don’t have in any other plant.”

Ford officials ticked off a number of improvements.

The factory’s paint shop, which had no robots, now has 66. Primer, body color paint and top coat are applied at the same time, as opposed to drying after each stage.

Work stations and processes have been standardized; the assembly line goes up and down to make it easier for workers to build up the car.

Tiny robots, about a foot high, hold and clamp body panels in place to be welded. And robots are programmed to weld according to the vehicle type.

About 550 processes are checked for quality, compared with about 300 at other plants.

The factory, as well as the vehicles it will produce, will be green.

A 500-kilowatt solar panel system — Michigan’s largest, according to Ford — will be installed to help generate renewable energy for production of the Focus models.

Ten new electric vehicle charging stations on the property will be used to recharge the electric trucks that transport parts between adjacent facilities.

The remade Michigan Assembly is part of the One Ford vision of CEO Alan Mulally, who wants the automaker to operate all its facilities, worldwide, as a single company.

That means developing vehicles that can be built and sold in every market, and taking advantage of economies of scale.

The 2012 Focus is Ford’s most global vehicle, with 80 percent common parts and assembly planned on three continents.

SOURCE: Detroit News

Transformation of Michigan Assembly Plant Symbolizes Ford’s Transformation

By dancurranjr On December 17th, 2010

Ford Motor Company held its press preview for the North American International Auto Show at the newly-renovated Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne.

The plant used to build trucks. Now, after spending $550 million, Ford says it’s the first manufacturing facility in the world to build four kinds of powertrains: gas-powered, hybrid, plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles.

Ford says the plant is a symbol of its own transformation to a company that builds more fuel-efficient vehicles.

CEO Alan Mulally says Ford is deeply committed to better fuel efficiency, but, at the same time, the federal government is considering new CAFE standards of 60 miles per gallon average. Mulally says any new standards have to be technically feasible. And, they can’t be out of reach for consumers.

“The most important thing is the economics of the whole thing,” Mulally says, “because people need to have the vehicles that they want but they also need to afford em.”

The Michigan Assembly Plant will build the new Focus starting next year, along with an all-electric version of the Focus, and a hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicle yet to be announced.

Ford and its Detroit rivals Chrysler and GM have traditionally had trouble making money on small cars like the Focus in North America.

But now, the companies are beginning to see lower labor costs, as a 2007 contract with the UAW starts to kick in. Ford will be hiring a thousand new workers soon to work at its Louisville Assembly plant. The new workers will get half the usual wage of current UAW plant workers. Any new workers at the Michigan Assembly Plant will also make the lower wage.

Ford CEO Alan Mulally says another factor that allows the company to make money on small cars is using the same platform – the underpinnings of the car – to build a similar version of the Focus, everywhere in the world that Ford sells cars. Those economies of scale bring down the production cost of vehicles.

The company expects smaller cars like the Focus to become more popular in the U.S. – especially if gas prices continue to rise. Higher gas prices could also spur hybrid sales, but Ford doesn’t expect more expensive all-electric cars like the electric Focus to be big sellers for a long time.

The electric Focus will be competitively priced to compete against the Nissan Leaf, says Mulally.

Ford’s President of the Americas, Mark Fields, says the Focus will also have a similar range as the Leaf, around 100 miles. Fields says two things will limit the popularity of all-electric vehicles. The first is so-called “range anxiety,” which means having to plan every trip around the upper limits of the battery’s capabilities. That capability can vary, depending on the weather, whether the roads are hilly, and driving style.

Fields says the other limiting factor will be price. All-electric vehicles are likely to remain significantly more expensive than gas-powered or hybrid vehicles for many years.

SOURCE: Public

Ford Takes Baby Steps into Eco Friendly Cars

By dancurranjr On December 13th, 2010

And by baby steps, we mean very much baby steps. While Nissan has the Leaf and the European Car of the Year Award and Chevy has the Volt and pretty much every North American green car award ever, Ford is…looking at using recycled cotton in some of its products. Look, there’s a real strategy at work here. Ford wants to build a strategy by which it can easily switch between making traditional gasoline cars and electric or EV cars, presumably because the maker of the world’s largest pickup trucks doesn’t believe that green cars are more than a trend. In the meantime, however, recycled cotton it is!

We should say though that there is method in Ford’s madness. There will be an electric Ford Focus based on the 2012 Mark III model as well as a hybrid version. The strategy is about flexibility and cost savings since the traditional version and fuel efficient version will share components. Ford may come out with a win on this idea.

For now though, Ford will be incorporating recycled cottons into the carpet backing and sound absorption material. This is a big deal for the 107-year old company and isn’t the first move of this nature. Ford has actually worked to decrease landfill mass by using old clothes in their next-generation Focus. The company also uses soy foam seat cushions and uses recycled materials for their underbody systems and seat covers as well as natural-fiber plastic for interior components.

Let’s be real. In the end, Ford’s slower roll into eco friendly cars using more manageable steps instead of making a full shift to creating perfectly environmentally friendly cars that consumers may not actually want may be the right move. After all, according to a recent Consumer Reports study, although Americans want to be more environmentally friendly with their vehicles, they’re probably not ready for fully electric cars – or even most hybrids.

SOURCE: Tiny Green Bubble

Ford Expects Higher Hybrid Sales in 2009

By dancurranjr On December 31st, 2009

Ford Motor Co. said today that it is on track to sell more hybrid vehicles in 2009 than it ever has before.

Through November, Ford said has sold nearly 31,000 hybrid vehicles, or 67% more than it sold last year in the United States while total industry sales have declined 11%.

Ford’s hybrid sales increase is primarily driven by the spring introduction Ford Fusion Hybrid midsize car.

Through November, Ford sold 13,998 Fusion hybrids, according to Autodata Corp.

However, Ford still has a long way to go before it catches hybrid market leader Toyota Motor Corp. Through November, Toyota has sold 127,907 Priuses, according to Autodata Corp.

Ford also introduced the Mercury Milan hybrid midsize car earlier this year and sells hybrid versions of its Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner SUVs.


Ford to Spend $500M on Michigan Battery, Hybrid Production

By dancurranjr On December 26th, 2009

Ford Motor Co. has outlined plans to invest as much as $500 million in Michigan to engineer and assemble battery packs for a new generation of electric vehicles and manufacture a new hybrid and plug-in hybrid here — if state lawmakers approve a request for tax credits it is submitting today in Lansing.

These moves would consolidate much of Ford’s electric vehicle research, development, engineering and manufacturing in the state, creating approximately 1,000 new jobs at the company.

“We think it has a great opportunity to help in the economic growth of Michigan,” said Nancy Gioia, director of Ford’s global electrification programs. “It promotes Michigan’s competitiveness.”

Ford’s announcement comes a day after General Motors Co. said it would invest $336 million to upgrade its Hamtramck plant to produce the Chevrolet Volt and the next-generation Malibu.

Ford, which was the first U.S. car maker to manufacture a hybrid, plans to begin production of a battery-powered commercial van next year, to be followed by a battery-powered version of its new Focus compact in 2011. The company also is readying a new generation of gasoline-hybrids.

It currently purchases battery packs for its hybrid vehicles from Delphi Corp., which assembles them in Mexico. But the automaker said battery engineering is a “core competency” that is too important to entrust to a supplier.

If the state does not approve tax credits for Ford, the automaker said it is considering other sites.

The new Ford Focus and other vehicles based on the global compact platform are slated to be produced at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne.

Ford said it has not decided where in Michigan the batteries would be assembled.

SOURCE: Detroit News