Ford has opened its new model quality centre at the historic Rouge site in Detroit to support the introduction and ensure top quality of the new 2009 F-150 pickup next year.

Located in the renovated historic Dearborn glass plant, the centre is helping prove out manufacturing, test vehicles and train employees for the next-generation pickup, the automaker's top-selling model.

At the company's virtual build centre, a launch team of engineers, plant employees and suppliers are 'building' the new pickup on virtual assembly lines that replicate the Dearborn Truck and the Kansas City assembly plants, where the new F-150 will be produced in 2008.

Due to the rigorous digital processes, manufacturing issues are being virtually eliminated as the first physical prototypes of the trucks are built, Ford claimed. The quality centre at the Rouge also will help provide training on key assembly processes for a third of Dearborn Truck's 3,200 employees. Employees will train on workstations built to replicate those in the chassis and final assembly areas.

Two workstations allow in-depth study of the 2009 F- 150's new frame. At two additional workstations - with platforms that raise and lower to the employee's height and job requirements - employees will learn installation procedures of new parts and components.

The new centre was funded in part by a $US208m investment Ford made in the Dearborn truck plant to support the launch of the new 2009 model. It now has such a quality centre at each assembly plant in North America.

The redesigned F-150 will be unveiled at the Detroit show in January and goes on sale next autumn. Ford said it had been completely redesigned.