BETTER NEWS—Re-tooled Ford plant to make Explorers in 2010
Crain’s Chicago Business reports:
Ford’s Chicago assembly plant is slated to produce a new version of the Explorer sport-utility vehicle next year, as part of a recent deal with the United Auto Workers to reduce pay and benefits. Ford spent $400 million to renovate the Torrence Avenue plant five years ago that seems to have played a key role in landing the job. Ford is converting the Explorer from a truck platform to a unibody car frame that only Torrence Avenue and a plant in Oakville, Ontario, can produce.
“I can’t imagine they would build it anywhere else [than Chicago],” says Haig Stoddard, an auto analyst at IHS Global Insight Inc. in Troy, Mich. “The only way it would not get built there is if they put it in Oakville. But with the volumes they’re looking at, they’d have to put it in Chicago.”
Erich Merkle, an independent auto analyst in Grand Rapids, Mich., predicts Ford will produce 125,000 of the new Explorers annually. Analysts figure Torrence Avenue has enough unused capacity to make 200,000 more cars a year, which Oakville can’t match.
The new model is scheduled to go into production in 2010. To meet that timetable, Ford must finalize production plans by this summer, industry experts say.