Company employs about 9,000 in Kentucky
By Mark Green
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Jan. 23, 2015) — Vehicles manufactured in Louisville are central to Ford’s ongoing global business plans, providing profits that allow the 112-year-old carmaker to maintain competitiveness in a fierce marketplace.
“Kentucky and Louisville are extremely important to Ford Motor Co.,” said John Fleming, Ford executive vice president for global manufacturing and labor.
He was keynote speaker to a luncheon audience of more than 400 Friday in Lexington at the conclusion of a two-day gathering of Kentuckians for Better Transporation.
The company restructured under former CEO Alan Mulally during and coming out of the deep recession of 2008-09, closing many plants and upgrading those it kept so that the company could invest in new products, Fleming said. Ford borrowed $23 billion. And it set four guiding operational principles under Mulally: quality, green, safe and smart.
The updated manufacturing system, including full renovations of the 3-million-s.f. Louisville Assembly Plant and the 6-million-s.f. Kentucky Truck Plant, enabled the company to deliver better products to market more efficiently.
Ford today has “the freshest product lineup in the industry,” Fleming said.
LAP produces the Ford Escape compact SUV and the new Lincoln MKC. KTP builds Ford Super Duty Trucks (F-250, F350, F450, F550) and the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator full size SUVs. All of the LAP and KTP vehicles are among company’s most profitable.
Describing vehicle-manufacturing competition as “fierce” both in the United States and on a global basis, Fleming said the level of partnership Ford management feels and its ability to work together with state and city officials is a key element in corporate decision making.
The company currently has some 9,000 workers at all levels in Kentucky, where Ford produces about 2,000 vehicles a day, Fleming said. Its F-Series trucks have been the best selling truck line for 38 year and the overall best selling line of any vehicle for 33 years.
Ford’s Louisville operations have played a role in Kentucky setting records for exports the past four years, said Gov. Steve Beshear, who spoke to the KBT luncheon audience also. He used the opportunity to urged listeners to contact state legislators during the General Assembly session that continues in February and March to urge passage of proposed changes in the Kentucky gas tax to stabilize the state Road Fund that pays for transportation infrastructure projects and passage of a public-private partnership bill that does not contain any “poison pill” provisions – a reference to the 2014 P3 bill he vetoed because a rider prohibiting any use of tolls to finance a replacement for the 50-year-old I-75 bridge between Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati.
In Louisville, the F-Series production line is pioneering a major shift by Ford from steel-based to aluminum-based vehicles, Fleming said, with the resulting 700-pound-per-truck weight reduction creating better fuel economy for consumers. For the company’s manufacturing process, Fleming said, the shift to aluminum cuts carbon dioxide generation 30 percent, cut water use 30 percent and energy use 25 percent.
Ford is “very pleased” that the first 36,000 aluminum-based vehicles have into and back out of dealer showrooms into the market quickly.
The UAW agreement Ford struck in 2011 ends in 2015, Fleming said, but the company is entering negotiations optimistically because the current union contract yielded 14,000 new autoworker jobs as a result of $6.2 billion in investment.
“We have an excellent relationship with UAW,” he said.
Ford’s goals include adding more jobs and continuing to invest in its manufacturing systems to further improve competitiveness.