Amid anxiety about a global recession, slowing vehicles sales and looming job cuts, Ford Motor Co. delivered some good news to Louisville, KY, workers Thursday, Aug. 29 — a $550 million investment in its local factories and plans to retain union jobs.
Most of the spending will go toward upgrading and modernizing the Louisville Assembly Plant on Fern Valley Road as the automaker prepares to release its revamped Escape and Lincoln Corsair models.
No new jobs are part of the deal, according to the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority, which granted $40 million in tax incentives in return for the planned spending and a promise to retain 800 full-time workers for at least three years.
Ford promised to plow more than $2 billion into retooling and upgrading its Louisville factories nearly four years ago when it sealed a new United Auto Workers contract.
But most of the attention has been focused on the Kentucky Truck Plant on Chamberlain Lane, where more than $900 million has paid for new robotic riveting and other advanced equipment to build aluminum alloy bodies for Super Duty pickups and SUVs.
The $550 million includes $15 million in new construction at the plants as well as $535 million in equipment and installation costs.
Ford released a statement saying it "builds more vehicles in the U.S. and employs more hourly workers in the U.S. than any other automaker — and we'd like to keep it that way. To do so, we must remain competitive."
The Detroit automaker has been working on a new generation of the Escape, a popular compact SUV that it has relied on for sales. But the model has seen slipping sales in the last year amid aggressive competition.
The company's new investment involves several safety features for the luxury Corsair and the Escape, including an Escape hybrid and a plug-in electric hybrid, plus "pre-collision assist" capabilities, warnings for "road departure" and lane changes, and automatic emergency braking.
Much of that technology has become standard in newer high-end cars and SUVs.