KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Last Friday, the Kansas City Assembly Plant (KCAP) received welcomed news. Against a backdrop of bulldozers, Ford executives, government officials and UAW representatives hosted a press conference confirming Ford’s future investment and product sourcing plans for Kansas City, including an investment of U.S. $1.1 billion, production of the Transit commercial van beginning in 2013 and the construction of a new, integrated stamping facility at an adjacent site.
"It's a great day to be here in Liberty, and it's a great day for all of our employees and all of our partners here in Kansas City," said Mark Fields, president, The Americas. "It reminds us why we are in this business, not only to build great cars and trucks, but also to provide great jobs, give back to our communities and provide a great future for our children and our grandchildren."
The investment, which was $700 million more than originally announced in January of this year, provides the funding to re-tool the entire SUV side of the plant, in particular the paint and body shops, to make way for the tooling and equipment needed to build the Transit, as well as an all-new stamping facility to provide the large, exterior body components for the van.
While the Transit isn't a familiar face in the North America market, it is widely popular in Europe, and has been the best-selling van in Britain since 1965. While some may see it as similar to the Econoline, John Fleming, executive vice president, Global Manufacturing and Labor Affairs, pointed out that one key difference in the two vehicles is fuel efficiency, as the Transit will have better fuel economy.
In addition to building the Transit at KCAP for the North America market, the plant also will start building the Ford F-150 on two shifts next year. This will bring the total shifts of F-150 production to five, including three at the Dearborn Truck Plant.
Once re-tooling for the Transit commercial van is complete, the stamping plant is built and the F-150 shifts are increased, 1,600 new jobs will be added at the plant.
Fields pointed out that the large investment in Kansas City, "Shows beyond a shadow of a doubt, our commitment to our customers, to our fantastic employees, to the city of Liberty and to the broader Claycomo area and their communities," as well as supporting Ford's broader vision to invest in the U.S.
The investment in Kansas City continues Ford's overall goal of making the company more competitive in the global marketplace. Fleming added, "Our plans for the transformation of Kansas City Assembly Plant aligns with our efforts to leverage Ford's global operations, while also providing a well-balanced, high-quality portfolio of cars, trucks and utility vehicles."
While the announcement to invest in KCAP may come as news to many in the Kansas City area, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon explained that this transformation has been in the works for quite some time. Nixon was instrumental in securing legislation – the Missouri Manufacturing Jobs Act – that encourages manufacturing investment in the Show-Me State. The legislation allows Missouri to provide financial incentives to companies with manufacturing facilities in the state, as long as the companies demonstrate a strong commitment to investing, and creating and keeping jobs in Missouri.
"Americans and Missourians have been building automobiles for generations. It's who we are. It's in our blood," said Nixon. “Even though the plant has been in Missouri for over 50 years, an investment of this significance has not been seen since the actual opening of the facility.”
Following the Governor's remarks, Jim Wells, UAW director, Region 5, also praised the employees of UAW Local 249 for their commitment "to what could be" when they voted to ratify the recent UAW-Ford contract agreement. "They had the vision for their future. They knew that they had an opportunity," said Wells.