STERLING HEIGHTS – Ford’s Van Dyke Transmission Plant in Sterling Heights, Mich., held a media event Thursday to mark the launch of a new flexible assembly line that will make Ford the only producer of front-wheel drive hybrid transmissions in North America.
Vehicles supported by the new hybrid transmission, called HF35, include the Ford C-MAX Hybrid, C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid, Fusion Hybrid, Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid and Lincoln MKZ Hybrid.
Van Dyke Plant Manager Mark Willis thanked the UAW and numerous teams of people who worked to transform 200,000 square feet of abandoned area at the plant into a world-class assembly operation within 18 months.
“It’s been a concerted, very well coordinated effort,” he said. “The team really deserves a lot of accolades today for what they’ve delivered.”
Willis’ thoughts were echoed by UAW Local 2280 Chairman Robb Miller.
“Our skilled trades have done just a phenomenal job of taking an abandoned area and turning it into the state-of-the-art facility that you see today,” he said. “Our production teams are very eager to continue to build the best quality transmissions that Van Dyke is known to do.”
Jim Tetreault, vice president, Ford North America Manufacturing, emphasized that the HF35 hybrid transmission is the first hybrid transmission to be designed and built by Ford. Previously, hybrid transmission production was handled by suppliers in Japan.
“This is a testament to the innovation, capability and cost-savings that we can generate when we bring work in-house and let our own people do what they’re best at,” he said.
Tetreault also explained the significance of Ford’s decision to integrate the hybrid and six-speed transmissions into one flexible assembly line at Van Dyke.
“By integrating (the hybrid) transmission onto this line, we’ll be able to give consumers even more. We’ll be able to give them the powertrains they want and the transmissions required,” he said. “This kind of flexibility is a huge efficiency to Ford and a customer advantage for us because we can adjust the production mix as market preferences change.”
Following the event, Launch Manager Kevin Poet described the importance of in-sourcing the production of hybrid transmissions.
“It’s an incredible advantage. It not only provides jobs but from a strategic standpoint it gives us an advantage over the competition. There aren’t a lot of manufacturers who are designing and manufacturing their own powertrains for hybrid vehicles in-house,” he said. “That’s excellent for the company from a business perspective and it’s a fantastic advantage for the workforce here from the UAW’s perspective as far as job security.”
Employees already working on the HF35 assembly line were excited about the launch.
“Ford is moving on with the technology,” said Jeff Valentic, a manufacturing tech. “They’re trying to help the environment, and I think it’s a good thing.”
Don Potter, also a manufacturing tech, says he enjoys learning new things and helping with the success of a new product for the company.
“This is work that’s coming back to the United States instead of going out, so it’s good for everybody,” he said. “It’s also job security for us. Every time a new line comes into the plant it’s 10 to 15 years running and it gets us all closer to retirement.”
The $220 million investment by Ford and suppliers to transform the Van Dyke Transmission Plant will result in the addition of 225 new jobs. The plant recently added 130 of those jobs as part of the hybrid transmission launch. Van Dyke now has a total of 1,350 workers.