Ford Motor Co. has announced its intent to build its F-650 and F-750 medium-duty trucks at its Avon Lake, Ohio, plant, rather than one in Mexico. The company will invest $168 million to retool the Cleveland-area plant, which currently produces the Ford E-Series lineup of vans, and a few other commercial vehicles. Production will begin next year, and the trucks will go on sale in spring 2015.
There is no word on whether the move will mean additional hiring at the Avon Lake plant, but that's unlikely — Ford is replacing the E-Series with the 2015 Ford Transit, which will be made in the company's Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycomo, Mo. This would mean that, most likely, the existing workforce for the E-Series will simply be translated over to the F-650 and F-750 lines.
“Shifting production of the 2016 Ford F-650 and F-750 medium-duty trucks to Ohio Assembly Plant helps secure a solid future for the dedicated workers at this facility,” said Joe Hinrichs, Ford president of The Americas. “Building these trucks in-house will utilize our expertise from our other tough truck and commercial vehicle lines to give our customers a better product at a competitive price.”
The move comes as part of the collective bargaining agreement Ford and the United Auto Workers (UAW) negotiated back in 2011. Naturally, the UAW is pleased to have brought additional production back to the U.S.
Jimmy Settles, UAW vice president, said, “We are extremely pleased that the dedicated, highly skilled and highly motivated UAW members of Ohio Assembly Plant have been selected to build the next-generation Ford F-650 and F-750."
The company did not comment specifically on what benefits it hoped to glean from transition production to the U.S., but it's likely related to quality, and not cost. Both the F-650 and F-750 are commercial vehicles, which need to be made to incredibly stringent standards so that they don't fail on the work site. To help with those efforts, Ford announced its first robotic test-driving program, in which autonomously-driven trucks repeatedly perform tests on "torturous" surfaces, such as broken concrete, cobblestones, metal grates, mud pits and oversized speed bumps. The company hopes these tests will compress a decade of driving into a much smaller timeframe, which will help it dramatically improve the vehicles' quality.