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Ford adding 500 US jobs to build big SUVs

By Graeme Roberts | 19 March 2019

Ford has added more workstations and split up some tasks to ensure employees can complete jobs in the time allotted

Ford has added more workstations and split up some tasks to ensure employees can complete jobs in the time allotted

Ford said it would again boost production of its popular Expedition and Lincoln Navigator large SUVs this summer as both vehicles continue to gain share over their competitors in the segment.

It is adding 550 jobs at its Kentucky Truck Plant and moving roughly the same number of jobs from Louisville to increase Expedition and Navigator production by 20%. Vehicle production would increase after the summer shutdown in July, the automaker said in a statement.

Surging demand for Expedition and Navigator is driving the increase. Retail sales of the Expedition eight-passenger SUV surged 35% and it gained 5.6 percentage points in market segment share last year. Average transaction price increased US$11,700 and is now $62,700. Navigator sales grew 70% in 2018 from 2017, to 17,839 sold, its best sales year since 2007.

While growth remains strong with Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, the latest customers include a greater number of older Millennials – a 5 percentage point increase – who now make up 14% of Expedition buyers.

"Kentucky Truck Plant is home to two of Ford and Lincoln's most successful vehicles," said John Savona, Ford vice president, North American manufacturing. "After seeing a continued increase in customer demand for Expedition and Navigator, we are boosting production for a second time to meet it."

Ford has increased the line speed at Kentucky. The manufacturing team gathered a group of salaried and hourly workers together to analyse the cycle times of each operation and found there were jobs that could not be completed in the allotted time. So they added more workstations and split up some tasks to ensure employees can complete jobs in the time allotted.

The plant team also had to get creative in its use of space, adding pits and platforms so more line operators working in the same area can execute tasks while complying with varying height requirements as the vehicle moves down the assembly line.