LOUISVILLE — Ford Motor will invest $900 million in Louisville’s Kentucky Truck Plant to build the revamped Expedition and Lincoln Expedition SUV, a move that is expected to secure 1,000 jobs.
The announcement, coming on the same day that Ford said it will shift production of its Focus compact car to China, gave officials a chance to trumpet their investment in American automaking operations.
Joe Hinrichs, the company’s president for global operations, declined to discuss what factored into the China move, but pointed to Ford’s talking points about its investment in American manufacturing.
He said $12 billion has been plowed into U.S. factories in the last five years, creating 28,000 new U.S. jobs. “We remind people of our strong presence in the U.S., ” he said.
The investment at Kentucky Truck Plant follows a $1.3 billion infusion to re-tool and upgrade the facility for the launch of the aluminum-body Super Duty pickup truck. That added 2,000 jobs starting in late 2015. The complex now employs about 7,700 full-time hourly workers.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said the latest investment is a show of confidence in the quality of employees. “When you invest with this kind of money it means you believe in the workforce,” Fischer said.
Construction is continuing on the plant’s new body shop to rivet and bond parts of the new aluminum alloy body and to add a new trim assembly line for the Expedition and Navigator, Hinrichs said.
Ford has switched to aluminum for its F-series pickups and its largest SUV’s are next in line. The switch from steel is designed to cut weight and add tow capacity, which boosts fuel efficiency.
“Large SUVs are attracting a new generation around the world – and we’re finding new ways to deliver the capability, versatility, and technology that customers around the world really want with our all-new Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator,” Hinrichs said.
He added that Ford sold 2,000 Navigators in China last year and expects to increase the exports in coming years.
The decision comes as car sales continue to fall in the U.S. and as uncertainty grows over the automotive industry in Mexico with negotiations set be begin later this year on restructuring the North American Free Trade Agreement. While critics of NAFTA say it has led to job losses in the U.S. supporters say it has fostered a stronger North American auto industry.