Ford Motor Co. plans to invest $6.2 billion to expand its U.S. manufacturing base, a move that will help it save 3,240 existing jobs and add another 12,000 positions by 2015.
A large chunk of the investment will go into the maker’s home state of Michigan, which will see the addition of 2,350 new jobs.
“These investments, many of which are already under way, will ensure our southeast Michigan manufacturing facilities can support our aggressive growth plans,” said Jim Tetreault, the Ford vice president in charge of North American manufacturing.
The plan will cover an array of component as well as assembly plants. In the Detroit area, that includes an axle plant, a stamping facility and two assembly lines. The Michigan Assembly Plant has become the home base for an array of high-mileage models including the new Ford Focus Electric battery car.
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The maker will also invest $161 million in the Flat Rock Assembly Plant to expand production of the well-received new Fusion model that is a finalist for North American Car of the Year. Until recently, there had been concerns that factory might close after Ford’s Asian affiliate, automaker Mazda, decided to pull out of the long-term joint venture and shift production of the Mazda6 sedan back to Japan.
The expansion program reflects Ford’s growth in sales and market share since the company bottomed out during the recent recession. Like a number of its domestic competitors, Ford had sharply reduced production capacity during the downturn and now needs to expand its manufacturing base to take advantage of the anticipated rise in sales.
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The U.S. market is still well below its previous mid-decade peak of more than 17 million cars, trucks and crossovers but sales are expected to end 2012 at just below 14.5 million – and forecasts call for demand to start nudging 16 million over the next several years.
Key to the new program, Ford will be investing in more flexible manufacturing operations that can adapt to shifting market demand. Factories like Michigan Assembly and Flat Rock Assembly will be able to flex between different models to reflect current buying trends.
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The investment program also will support the One Ford program. Increasingly, Ford is shifting to a mix of vehicles that are shared worldwide, such as the latest-generation Fiesta subcompact, rather than developing unique models for individual markets. There are, however, a few exceptions, such as the full-size F-Series pickups that are primarily targeted at the North American market.
Ford operates 65 plants worldwide and employs 172,000 employees.