DEARBORN, MI - Ford Motor Co.'s Michigan Assembly Plant, which once churned out large SUVs, has completed a $550 million transformation that will allow it to build not only fuel-efficient gas-powered cars, but also three production versions of electrified vehicles including battery electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars.
Michigan Assembly will be home to the all-new global Ford Focus, which has started production and goes on sale early next year. The Focus Electric zero-emission battery electric vehicle goes into production late next year, followed by production of a new hybrid and a plug-in hybrid in 2012.
"We've modernized just about every square foot of this facility to establish a new standard for a high-tech, green, flexible and efficient auto factory," said Jim Tetreault, Ford vice president of North America manufacturing. "The transformation of Michigan Assembly Plant stands as a symbol for the transformation of Ford."
On the outside, a new 500-kilowatt solar panel system will be installed to help generate renewable energy for production of Ford's all-new Focus and Focus Electric cars. Ten new electric vehicle charging stations on the property will be used to recharge the electric trucks that transport parts between adjacent facilities.
Inside, new cars making the three-mile trip down the assembly line must pass dozens of rigorous quality inspections, Ford said. A new paint booth uses 66 paint robots with seven axes of movement to precisely apply paint to the cars. In the body shop, 500 new robots capable of 4,000 welds per vehicle add to the plant's flexibility. And a new internal communications system flashes updates and information to the plant's 3,200 employees via 163 monitor screens distributed throughout the plant.
The refurbished Michigan Assembly Plant is the company's new benchmark for flexible manufacturing, Ford said. At 1.2 million square feet -- about the size of 22 football fields -- the plant becomes the automaker's most flexible, high-volume and modern manufacturing facility in its global operations. The changes at the plant will allow the company to run multiple models down the same production line without requiring considerable downtime for changeover of tooling. Two different models of the Focus can be adjusted between builds without restrictions.
"If the last few years have taught us anything, it is that customer wants and needs can change quickly -- much more quickly than we have been equipped to efficiently respond to in the past," said Tetreault. "At Michigan Assembly, we will achieve a level of flexibility we don't have in any other plant around the world, which will allow us to meet shifting consumer preferences in real time."
Michigan Assembly Plant also will boast Michigan's largest solar power generation system and several electric vehicle charging stations for greener, more sustainable manufacturing when installation is completed next year.