Steel Markets

Ford Dearborn Starts Transformation to Aluminum F-150

Written by Sandy Williams

Ford has begun transforming its Dearborn plant for production of the all new aluminum-bodied F-150 pickup. The last steel-bodied F-150 left the line on August 23rd and the plant was closed to start replacing the old machinery with new.

The conversion will cost Ford $359 million and idle production until September 22. Ford employees, approximately 3000 of them, are on temporary lay-off while 1500 trades workers and contractors scurry to meet the eight week deadline to get the plant ready to roll the aluminum F-150 off the line.

More than 1,100 tractor trailers are scheduled to bring in new machinery and haul away the old equipment. Equipment that is in good shape will be used at other plants while equipment that has exceeded its useful life will be scrapped.

The new vehicle will be 700 pounds lighter and have better fuel economy. About 250 pre-production F-150s are currently being driven and evaluated by the executive team. During Ford’s Q2 conference call, President and CEO Mark Fields told analysts that “the innovative approaches that the team is taking to this launch are very, very comforting to us.” He noted that extensive testing was done online before processes and tools were used for pilot production which has been ongoing for over a year.

“We are doing things we have never done before,” said Bruce Hettle, head of Ford’s North American manufacturing.

While Dearborn is shutdown, Kansas City will continue to produce the 2014 model and keep dealers supplied until the new F-150 hits the market later this year. The Kansas City plant is scheduled to begin its change-over in early 2015. (Source: Detroit Free Press)

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