Ford Motor Co., reacting to U.S. pickup sales that have gained momentum for almost two years straight, said it plans to add workers at an F-150 truck factory to boost production of its most profitable model line.
Bloomberg reported that Ford will hire a third crew at its plant in Claycomo, Mo., to boost F-150 output starting in the third quarter, the company said today in a statement. The No. 2 U.S. automaker is adding more than 2,000 employees at the factory for the extra pickup production and to begin building the Transit commercial van in mid-2014.
The F-Series pickup line is a juggernaut for Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford. It’s led the U.S. truck segment the last 36 years and has been the best-selling vehicle of any type in the country for more than three decades. Ford plans to make more pickups to keep up with demand after 21 straight months of increases for the F-Series as rebounding housing and energy sectors lift U.S. market share for Ford, General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC.
“It’s a huge vote of confidence in our truck, our sales and what’s going on in the industry overall and the economy,” Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of the Americas, said in a telephone interview. “We wouldn’t be hiring if we didn’t think it was going to last. It is a strong indication of how we feel about our continued leadership in the segment.”
Kansas City Assembly will be capable of operating 120 hours per week after the third crew is added, up from the 100 hours per week that it’s been running with two shifts, Hinrichs said.
Ford Motor Co. is increasing Class A motorhome and commercial chassis production capacity by approximately 35% to meet renewed recreational vehicle demand in the United States. At the same time, Ford is increasing production capacity of its 6.8-liter V10 engine that powers its motorhome chassis lineup.
“We’re pleased that while other chassis manufacturers have left this segment, Ford continues its commitment to the RV upfitter industry,” said Ken Czubay, Ford vice president, U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service, in a press release. “We’re increasing our participation in this industry as motorhome customers return to the market.”
As a result, Detroit Chassis will add 34 jobs to make more chassis for motorhomes and commercial vans, while Ford Motor Co. will make more engines for the same vehicles, according to the Detroit Free Press. Privately-held Detroit Chassis partnered with Ford to supply chassis and powertrains for recreational vehicle manufacturers such as Winnebago Industries Inc. and commercial van fleets such as UPS.
Detroit Chassis is hoping to build about 14,000 chassis in the next year, up from 10,000 last year. Almost all are sold through Ford’s sales network.
The automaker announced that it is expanding a Windsor engine plant by 25% by 2014 for production of the 6.8-liter, V-10 gasoline engine. In 2012, Ford made about 61,000 of the large V-10s that are used in motorhomes and commercial vans as well as the E-Series vans, F-Series Super Duty pickups and chassis cabs, the F-650, and third parties that use the engine as a generator.
“Ford is the only one making them (Class A chassis with a gasoline engine),” said Scott Degnan, Winnebago vice president of sales. “And they can’t supply enough of them.”
Degnan said Winnebago sold 1,700 vehicles last year and could have sold almost 30% more.
Elkhart, Ind.-based NeXus RV LLC has received received recognition as a Qualified Vehicle Modifier (QVM) by Ford Motor Co., according to a press release.
NeXus RV is a factory-direct manufacturer of Class C and Class C B-plus style motorhomes built on Ford E-series chassis.
“By achieving a QVM certification, NeXus RV is continuing down the path of building the best Class C in the industry,” states Claude Donati, president. “We are committed to following the standards and qualification set forth by Ford Motor Co. to assure we are building the highest quality product in our class.”
NeXus RV uses Ford Econoline gas chassis for its Viper B-plus and the Phantom Class C motorhomes.
The 2013 Detroit Auto Show has already seen the world debut of the 2014 Chevy Silverado and the 2014 GMC Sierra, and to keep itself in the headlines along with its arch-rival, Ford Motor Co. will show a new Atlas truck concept that could predict a new pickup truck to come in the near future.
The Car Connection reported that the Atlas concept is all about the future of Ford’s big pickup trucks – how they’ll look, and how they’ll improve fuel economy. Atlas is the mythological figure that has the strength to carry the world on his shoulders, and Ford says that’s how the people who’d drive one see themselves.
To fit that role, the Atlas has conveniences built into the cargo bed. A fold-out step can double as a cargo retainer, for example. In the same way the flip-out bed extenders on vehicles like the Ford Explorer Sport Trac have done in the past, the step slides and rotates upward to lock in place, forming a loading surface atop the vehicle. The roof is made tougher for that reason, to hold equipment like ladders.
A few touches come from commercial vehicles. The Atlas’ cargo ramps are tucked away under the tailgate, like those on moving trucks. They’re meant to be useful for weekend fun, too – for rolling an ATV into the pickup bed.
Other features fitted to the concept include active aero shutters for the grille and wheels, and deployable air dam and running boards, all to smooth out the truck’s profile and to net 2 mpg in fuel economy as a result, Ford says. The Atlas also has a 360-degree camera system with guidelines to assist in trailer hitching, as well as LED exterior lighting.
The Atlas suggests that Ford is at least considering a commercial-duty pickup truck derived from its upcoming Transit van. The Transit goes on sale next year, and will eventually replace the E-Series full-size vans after production is up to speed in Kansas City. The Wall Street Journal has reported that the Ford F-150 will turn to intensive aluminum construction to reduce weight and boost fuel economy; if that version could appeal to more upscale truck users, a Transit-based truck like the Atlas could be paired with the F-150 in the truck lineup, as a more utilitarian alternative.
Winnebago Industries Inc. has again received Ford Motor Co.’s “fully meets” classification as part of its “Truck Quality Program.”
According to a press release, the “Truck Quality Program” is the highest honor awarded to vehicle modifiers. It is based on an assessment of a modifier’s engineering capability, design and build process controls, management commitment and quality control procedures.
Ford said the purpose of the program is to assure vehicle modifiers have the capability and processes in place to “complete the vehicle in a repeatable manner that maintains the integrity of the Ford chassis system, meets federal and other standards in place at the time of the build, and provides end users with a quality built vehicle that meets their expectations.”
Winnebago Industries has received Ford’s “fully meets” classification every year since the program’s inception in 1997.
“Once again, Winnebago Industries is proud to earn the fully meets classification from Ford’s ‘Truck Quality Program,’” said Winnebago Director of Quality Control Chuck Hughes. “Our top priority is to manufacture the highest quality motorhomes on the market – and it all starts with the chassis. Meeting the stringent requirements by Ford to earn this classification shows that we are maintaining the integrity of the chassis while at the same time building the superior products our customers want.
“We hold Ford’s ‘Truck Quality Program’ in high regard and we will continue to strive to meet their expectations, as well as those of our customers.”
The big news in the automotive industry last week was the introduction of General Motors’ all-new 2014 full-size pickup trucks. Now Ford Motor Co. is looking to make that old news.
Reuters reports that the automaker is planning a surprise reveal of a concept for its radically redesigned 2015 F-150, said by insiders to be a game-changer in the half-ton segment, at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next January.
Where the new Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra are evolutionary designs, the new Ford is expected to be nothing short of revolutionary, with an extensive use of aluminum in its construction and re-engineered components like axles and brakes all aimed at cutting 700-750 pounds from the vehicles in order to improve fuel efficiency.
Reuters says Ford is aiming for a 3 mpg increase in fuel economy. That would represent a better than 15% improvement over the most fuel efficient F-150 available today, which is rated at 19 mpg combined. The trucks are expected to go into production in late 2014 as 2015 models.
Ford has not yet confirmed the plan to show the concept in Detroit, where it will be focusing its efforts on the launch of its E-Series full-size van replacement, the Transit.
The last time Ford brought a full-size truck concept to an auto show was in 2006 when it unveiled the F-250 Super Chief in Detroit. Inspired by the classic passenger trains of the same name, the heavy duty pickup featured an ultra-luxurious interior and a futuristic tri-fuel V10 engine that could run on gasoline, E85 or hydrogen.
This type of powerplant doesn’t appear to be in the works for the next generation F-150, but Reuters says a new line of turbocharged V6 engines is under development. Ford’s existing EcoBoost 3.5-liter V6 is the top choice of F-150 buyers today.
Ford is also known to be working with Toyota to design a hybrid powertrain for full-size trucks, but has yet to commit to putting it into production. General Motors is discontinuing its hybrid pickups and SUVs next year citing low sales.
Ford Motor Co.’s all-new Transit full-size van, which goes on sale late next year, will be offered with a new clean-running 3.2-liter Power Stroke five-cylinder diesel, according to a news release.
The new diesel, Ford’s second in North America, already has established a proven record for reliability, durability and refinement in the global Ford Ranger truck sold in world markets. The new Power Stroke Diesel will be the only five-cylinder diesel engine available in a commercial van in North America.
“Commercial van drivers spend most of their working hours behind the wheel. We know they want a fuel-efficient diesel engine with smooth, responsive performance and low operating costs,” said Joe Bakaj, Ford vice president of powertrain engineering. “The 3.2-liter Power Stroke engine has been developed and proven globally to deliver a world-class combination of power, fuel economy and refinement.”
While power has not been certified for North America, the new diesel engine is rated in Europe at 197 horsepower and 347 lb.-ft. of torque.
Like the larger 6.7-liter Power Stroke V8 offered in Ford F-Series Super Duty trucks, the fuel system has been carefully tailored and calibrated for combustion efficiency. It enables the newest Power Stroke to achieve exceptional fuel economy ratings without affecting power levels.
The 3.2-liter turbo diesel features state-of-the-art piezoelectric fuel injectors fed through a high-pressure common rail fuel system, and advanced emissions technologies.
Precise injection timing and calibration also ensures a smooth combustion process to reduce hard diesel combustion clatter, resulting in lower noise levels that are more like a gasoline engine. Each injector nozzle has eight spray holes and can deliver up to five injections per combustion cycle. A pilot injection controls noise levels and a main injection is used for power generation.
Detroit’s carmakers saw strong June U.S. car sales with Chrysler Group LLC, a subsidiary of Italian Fiat SpA (Milan: F), reporting 20% year-over-year sales growth, General Motors Co. reporting 16% sales growth and Ford Motor Co. reporting more modest 7% sales gains.
The news sent automakers’ shares up, with GM’s up about 6%, with more modest gains for its rivals, the International Business Times reported.
Chrysler was the first major automaker to report June car sales Tuesday and posted its strongest June in five years with 144,811 vehicles sold. However, industry analysts expect overall U.S. auto sales to be more or less flat from May with a seasonally adjusted average selling rate, or SAAR, of between 13.6 million and 14 million for June. June sales for U.S. automakers were strong in June, though, in part due to insulation from macroeconomic uncertainty for the industry.
“The combination of new products, available credit, lower fuel prices and modest economic growth was a stronger influence on consumer behavior than economic and political uncertainty,” General Motors Vice President for U.S. sales and operations Kurt McNeil said Tuesday.
The auto industry as a whole isn’t expected to demonstrate the strong sales growth of the first five months due to seasonality in car sales, said Alec Gutierrez, senior market analyst for Kelley Blue Book. Chrysler projected a SAAR of 14.4 million units, well above analyst projections.
Chrysler sales gained 20% in June, marking the 27th month of year-over-year sales growth. The Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram Truck and FIAT brands all posted gains. Chrysler brand sales rose 63%t, the best June sales since 2008.
“June was another solid month for the Chrysler Group with U.S. sales up 20% and second-quarter sales increasing 24% compared with the same period in 2011,” President and CEO of Dodge Brand and head of U.S. sales Reid Bigland said.
Chrysler has been the only profitable division of Fiat in recent quarters. Strong sales from the American unit could bolster weak European sales for the Italian automaker.
Ford reported June sales rose 7% from the year due to higher sales of trucks and SUVs.
“June was a good month for Ford and a particularly strong month for vehicles like Escape, Fusion, Explorer and F-Series,” said Ken Czubay, Ford’s vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service.
Ford sales are up 7% for the year so far with 1.14 million vehicles sold, including 207,759 sold in June. The bulk of June sales gains came from SUV sales. SUV sales rose 24.8% while truck sales gained 1.2%. Car sales growth was more modest at just 0.3%.
Sales of Ford’s flagship F-series trucks rose 10.9% with 55,025 sold, the best June sales in five years, indicative of increasing demand for Ford trucks. Car sales were weaker, though, with both the Fiesta and Focus posting losses. However, Fusion sales gained 17.4%.
Ford’s Lincoln brand actually posted a 2.5 percent gain with 7,544 units sold, indicating positive movement.
GM, the No. 1 automaker reported 15.5% year-over-year U.S. sales growth in June and the best sales month for the company since September 2008.
All four of GM’s brands, Chevrolet, GMC, Buick and Cadillac, reported double digit sales gains, with Cadillac leading the pack at 26.8%. Overall, GM sold 248,710 vehicles in June and projected a seasonally adjusted annual rate of sales of 14 million for June, in line with the high end of analyst expectations.
Toyota, Japan’s No. 1 company, said June U.S. sales rose 60.3% compared to the year before, the company announced Tuesday.
The exceptional growth in year-over-year sales likely reflects the company’s continued recovery from supply-chain, manufacturing and inventory disruptions caused by last year’s Japanese earthquake and Tsunami and floods in Thailand.
Ford Motor Co. is in talks with local partners to introduce indigenous brands in China as it plays catch-up in the world’s biggest auto market with the likes of General Motors Co. and Volkswagen International, its China chief said on Monday (June 4).
Such a move would see Ford join other foreign car makers in launching indigenous China-only brands, in part to comply with government rules that allow them to make cars on the mainland.
“We are always in discussions with our joint-venture partners,” David Schoch, chairman and CEO of Ford’s China operations, told Reuters in an interview in Taipei. “All I can tell you is we are studying indigenous brands, but our total focus in terms of brand enhancement is really on the Ford brand.”
China’s vehicles market, which includes cars, vans and trucks, will likely expand by around 5% this year and that pace of growth was likely to be sustained over the next few years, Schoch added. China’s 2011 vehicles sales stood at 18.5 million.
Ford, which makes its Fiesta, Focus, Mondeo and other sedans in China in a three-way tie-up with Chongqing Changan Automobile Co. Ltd and Japan’s Mazda Motor Corp, is a relative latecomer in China, where General Motors and Germany’s Volkswagen have a sizeable lead. It also holds 30% of Jiangling Motors Corp.which makes Ford’s Transit vans.
Typically, China-only brands use older technology that foreign companies no longer use, enabling them to keep vehicle costs lower and at the same time help Chinese partners learn the ropes in developing and marketing modern cars.
In a once unthinkable turnabout, Ford Motor Co. is bragging about how it now makes some of the smallest car engines in the industry — a sign of evolution for a company that once made its money selling powerful trucks, SUVs and the Mustang muscle car.
According to a report by the Los Angeles Times, Ford’s race to smaller engines represents an industry trend as automakers woo fuel-conscious consumers and work to meet increasingly stringent fuel-economy standards, said Jesse Toprak, an analyst for TrueCar, an auto price information company.
“We believe that we are going to pay more for energy going forward and that fuel efficiency is the top reason to buy,” said Alan Mulally, Ford’s chief executive.
Mulally said Ford’s strategy of making powerful but smaller engines is part of the automaker’s goal to “increase the fuel efficiency every year forever.”
Ford has focused on small turbocharged engines, which it calls its EcoBoost line. Although Ford vehicles with these engines carry a premium, they have among the quickest paybacks from gas savings in the industry, Toprak said.
A recent TrueCar analysis of the latest offerings of small but powerful engines found Ford excelled at big vehicles with small engines, such as its Edge sport utility vehicle with the EcoBoost four-cylinder engine and its big F-150 pickup truck with a six-cylinder EcoBoost engine.
Ford is promoting that, after new introductions later this year, it will have seven vehicles with the smallest engines in their respective segments.
To read the entire Los Angeles Times article click here.