WAYNE - Thursday was a day for celebration at the Michigan Assembly Plant (MAP) as thousands of people – including plant employees, Ford executives, UAW representatives, Ford dealers, local and state government officials and members of the media – crowded into the facility’s Final Assembly area to mark the official launch of the all-new 2012 Ford Focus.
The Focus is the first vehicle to be built at the newly renovated MAP, which recently completed a $550 million transformation into an industry-leading green, flexible manufacturing plant.
MAP Plant Manager Rob Webber set the tone for the event by thanking the more than 3,200 plant employees for their hard work and dedication. He commended the team for not only producing a world-class product but for doing it with the added challenge of an entirely new facility and a whole new set of tools and processes.
“This is a well-deserved tribute to the men and women who work at this plant,” said Webber, who was greeted by an enthusiastic round of cheers and applause. “I can’t emphasize enough how hard this team has worked.”
Ford President of The Americas Mark Fields praised employees for their devotion, adding that he fully expects the new Focus to be a “smash hit” in the marketplace.
“The passion that you have is so important because our customers have high expectations, and it’s important for them to know how hard this team is working to exceed those expectations,” he said.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder also was on hand for the celebration. He encountered a mildly hostile reception as some in the audience booed when his name was announced, but was applauded when he described Ford as a role model for what he says needs to happen in the state of Michigan
“If you look at where the auto industry was and the difficult times that people suffered through, it was a broken model and it needed to be reinvented,” Snyder said. “And the company that stood out the most and did the best at reinvention has been the Ford Motor Company.”
Following the program, many plant employees expressed pride in the new Focus and all seemed to share a fervent determination to see it succeed.
“We need to make this car right because this is our future,” said Scott Watson, who has been a Ford plant employee for 16 years. “We saw what happened to Chrysler and GM, and we don’t want that to happen to us. I think that’s why the sense of urgency is here.”
Mike Thomas, a plant employee who has been with Ford for 22 years, agrees.
“It’s a testament to us as employees that this car succeeds,” he said. “The people here know how important it is to all of us, and they’re not going to waver. We’re going to build the best car that we can.”
Vickie Worford, a 19-year Ford plant employee, says employees are committed to working together during hard times.
“People know that jobs are hard to come by, and they treasure and value their position with the company,” she said. “We’re looking for something to help our families, and as the economy grows we hope that people will look out more for the families and the working class people.”
MAP employee Dan Johnston says he is excited about the new Focus and the exceptional quality of Ford’s new small car.
“The company is not in a hurry to rush this car out there like they used to be. They’re taking their time and when they find a problem they solve it so that we won’t have issues and recalls when the vehicles reach the customer,” he said. “I’d be more apt to buy a car with no recalls, so I’m glad they’re taking their time with this car. It keeps us working, and it keeps the people wanting to buy this car.”
Johnston, a 15-year plant employee, saysthe “word of mouth” generated by superior quality is the most valuable advertising there is for a new vehicle.
“If someone buys a car and they’re happy with it, they’ll tell their friend and that friend will tell somebody else,” he said. “It’s better than paying for commercials.”
Plant employee Mike McMurtryagrees that the attention to quality at MAP is unmatched.
“Everyone is taking their time to make sure everything is right,” he said. “We’re noticing every little thing and repairing it before the vehicle leaves the plant. There’s no question about it. The quality is unsurpassed.”
Webber says the “phenomenal” work force at MAP has accomplished something that has never been done before.
“When you talk about One Ford, this is it,” he said. “We’re converting truck plants to car plants. We’re developing global products. We’re producing vehicles with outstanding fuel economy, and we’re doing it all with a highly trained work force. You’re seeing here at MAP everything that we’ve been talking about for the last few years.”
Webber says celebrations like the one at MAP give employees a much-deserved chance to “take it all in.”
“When you’re here and in the middle of it, you take a lot for granted. You don’t understand the significance of what you’re doing,” he said. “I think it’s good for us to take a step back and just reflect on the great job we’ve done.”