CHICAGO Ford Motor Co. is upgrading its Van Dyke transmission plant in Sterling Heights, Mich., to create a flexible assembly line making front-wheel-drive hybrid transmissions.
Ford and its suppliers are investing $220 million so it will be able to manufacture the HF35 transmission and other fuel-efficient transmissions.
The Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker is hiring 225 hourly workers as part of the upgrade, with 130 already on board and the remainder joining by the end of August, increasing employment at the plant to 1,575.
"Our investments in Van Dyke will make it our most advanced, efficient transmission plant in the world," said Jim Tetreault, Fords vice president of North America manufacturing.
The HF35, which incorporates two electric motors, is the first hybrid transmission to be designed and built by Ford. Previously, a supplier in Japan handled hybrid transmission production. By bringing the development work in-house, Ford reduced development costs by 20 percent.
Investments at Van Dyke include manufacturing, capital equipment, launch and engineering costs, and supplier tooling upgrades. New, flexible equipment will allow the plant to build the HF35 and the 6F, a conventional six-speed automatic transmission, at the same time.
The HF35 will be used in five electrified vehicles being introduced this year: the C-Max Hybrid, the C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid, the Fusion Hybrid, the Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid and the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid.
The Van Dyke plant upgrade is part of a $632-million commitment Ford and its suppliers have made to increase capacity and flexibility at three North American transmission facilities by 2015.