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
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.