Ford Motor Co. is reportedly spending at least $50 million for its Chicago operations to fund the production of its bestselling model Ford Explorer and the Aviator, which will be returning to the Lincoln lineup after several years.
Additionally, the company is also planning to convert 450 temporary employees from its Chicago Assembly and Chicago Stamping plants to full-time workers at a new supplemental facility less than a mile away.
The announcement was made by Ford president of automotive, Joe Hinrichs, on July 22. The company also clarified that the $50-million investment will be on top of the $1 billion previously committed to UAW as part of 2015 contract negotiations.
Ford’s plan includes renovating a 200,000-square-foot “modification center” into a “mini line” that will mainly be in charge of handling final assembly of the hybrid versions of the Ford Explorer and Lincoln Aviator, as well as a hybrid police interceptor SUV.
This will, in turn, allow the plant to develop more internal combustion engine models, add capacity for niche models, and help Ford meet consumer demand for highly profitable vehicles.
“We’re seeing strong demand for the product and we want to get them to consumers faster. We have demand for more volume of the product,” Hinrichs told The Detroit News.
The updated models are also reportedly getting a more tapered design and moving to a new rear-wheel-drive platform for better performance.
With these changes, Ford is expecting to generate higher-margin sales in a short period, following slow sales in the United States this year.
The Chicago Assembly Plant is known as the birthplace of the Model T and has been developing cars for the brand since 1924. The mini line conversion is expected to finish before the year ends.