Ford Motor Co. will shift production of Ford model F-650 and F-750 trucks to its assembly plant in Avon Lake, Ohio, where the chassis, engine and transmissions for the 2016 models will be built in-house. Ford made the announcement March 4 at the National Truck Equipment Association Work Truck Show in Indianapolis.
Ford is investing $168 million to prepare for the move from Mexico to Avon Lake, west of Cleveland, as part of a 2011 promise to union leaders to bring medium-duty truck production stateside. Approximately sixteen hundred production workers at the Avon Lake plant are represented by the UAW.
These workers faced the possibility of large-scale layoffs, as Ford mostly phased out production of the E-series “Econoline” van made in their plant. Ford plans to replace its E-series cargo and passenger vans with the 2015 Transit van, to be built at a plant near Kansas City, Missouri, while the Ohio plant will continue to build E-series cutaway vans and stripped chassis through most of the decade. Returning medium-duty truck production stateside means only a few hundred union members will be laid off.
Executives say that making the components domestically lowers costs, and makes it easier to deal with any service issues that occur. Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of the Americas, explains that “building these trucks in-house will utilize our expertise from our other tough truck and commercial vehicle lines, to give our customers a better product at a competitive price.”
The Avalon Lake plant will begin production of the F-650 and F-750 commercial trucks early next year, to go on sale in the spring of 2015. Ford will announce prices for the 2016 models later this year. The retail price range for current models is $55,595 for a gas engine-powered F-650 to $70,075 for a F-750 with a Cummins 6.7-liter diesel.
The new F-650 and F-750 models will be built without the help of Navistar International Corporation, Cummins Inc., or Allison Transmission Holdings Inc. For years, the chassis were built in Escondido, Mexico, through a joint venture with Navistar called Blue Diamond Truck LLC, with Cummins diesel engines and Allison transmissions.
Each new model will offer a choice of a 6.7-liter Power Stroke V8 diesel engine, built at Ford’s plant in Chihuahua, Mexico, which will be mated to a six-speed 6R140 automatic transmission, or a 6.8-liter V10 with a six-speed automatic transmission, built at the company’s plant in Windsor, Ontario.
The V10 can be factory-modified to run on compressed natural gas or liquid propane gas, instead of gasoline. Ford is the only automaker to offer a gasoline engine for medium-duty trucks.
Ford changed the grille on the new trucks, to increase air flow to cool their engines. In addition to redesigning the grille, fenders and headlights, Ford restructured the new models to fit key components under the cab, instead of behind the cab or on the frame. The company says this major change will make it much easier for buyers to customize their trucks for a wide range of functions, such as construction, service, delivery and emergency vehicles.
Both models will offer three cab styles: Regular, SuperCab, and CrewCab. Body options include straight frame, dock height, and the new tractor model, which is designed for heavy towing.
John Ruppert, general manager of Ford Commercial Vehicle Sales & Marketing, stated in a press release, “Every day, we’re thinking of new ways to better serve our hard-working customers…. The same Ford engineers who developed the best-selling F-Series have designed this all-new medium-duty lineup that can meet the demands of our toughest customers with trucks that are cost-effective, ready for work, and, most importantly, can help keep them going on the job.”
Ford sold 8,682 heavy trucks in 2013, up about 21 percent from 2012. The company reports that sales through February are up 52 percent.