LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- A $600 million renovation of Ford's Louisville assembly plant is near completion, company officials say, with the facility on course to start production by December.
Ford Motor Co., plant manager John Savona told The Courier-Journal that the plant will employ 2,900 people by the end of the year (http://bit.ly/oDCz9r). Combined with the staff at the Kentucky Truck Plant in eastern Louisville, Ford will employ 6,747 people in the area.
Renovations on the plant started nine months ago, aimed at enabling the facility to manufacture the redesigned Escape compact sport utility vehicle.
The redesigned Escape will be revealed at the Los Angeles Auto Show in mid-November, Savona said. That show vehicle will be assembled in Louisville, he said, with the first production versions rolling off the line around year's end.
"We are transforming this plant into a facility that will be among the most flexible in the world," Savona said.
The plant will be capable of building the new Escape and up to five other different vehicles at once, but Fordofficials won't discuss any models beyond the Escape.
As part of the plant's overhaul, he "Louisville Assembly Plant" sign stretching across the front of the factory has been pressure washed for a new coat of paint, marble columns and the 1955-era yellow brick exterior out front will be covered in sleek aluminum panels and silver paint and the old blue-oval Ford sign came down last week in preparation for a new one.
Early versions of that new Escape remained hidden from view during the tour of the plant, which Savona said is 80 percent complete. Those first Escapes are being used to calibrate tooling and equipment that will soon build the vehicles on four final assembly lines.
The Focus is staying at the Michigan Assembly Plant in Detroit, he added. Now on two shifts, the Michigan Assembly Plant would have to add a third shift before any Focus production comes to Louisville, he said.
The Louisville Assembly Plant had been home to the Explorer SUV until last year and was once slated for closure.
"We could be touring an empty plant today. I will never forget that," Joe Reagan, chief executive of Greater Louisville Inc., the metro chamber of commerce, said Friday as he strolled behind a crowd that included Gov. Steve Beshear, Metro Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, and representatives from the offices of U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul.
"This puts Kentucky on the cutting edge of manufacturing," Beshear said.