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Ford to Build Three Electric Models at Green Plant

Posted on December 18, 2010
Filed Under Ford Escape, Ford Fusion, Future Speculation, General News | Leave a Comment

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

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