The next-generation Explorer will be built at the Chicago Assembly Plant on a flexible assembly line alongside the new Ford Taurus and Lincoln MKS sedans. Ford is investing nearly $400 million in its Chicago manufacturing facilities to launch production of the new, fuel-efficient Ford Explorer. The company also will add 1,200 new jobs to staff a second production shift at Chicago Assembly Plant and increase production at the nearby Chicago Stamping Plant.
“The new Explorer will redefine the SUV for the modern era – retaining the capability customers want while delivering superb fuel efficiency, comfort and convenience,” said Mark Fields, Ford President of the Americas. “This investment underscores Ford’s commitment to building world-class, fuel-efficient vehicles in America and creating new jobs that will contribute to our nation’s economic recovery.”
The new Explorer is expected deliver at least 25 percent better fuel economy than the current model. The vehicle will feature unibody construction, Ford EcoBoostTM engine technology, a six-speed transmission and lightweight materials. Ford will provide full details about the new Explorer later this year.
In addition, the next-generation Explorer will debut the auto industry’s first-ever production inflatable seat belts, designed to provide additional protection for rear-seat occupants – often children and older passengers who can be more vulnerable to head, chest and neck injuries. The available inflatable rear seat belts spread crash forces over five times more area of the body than conventional seat belts, which helps to reduce pressure on the chest and to control head and neck motion for rear-seat passengers. Ford eventually plans to offer inflatable seat belt technology on other vehicles globally.
In planning for the company’s future manufacturing presence in the state, Ford worked closely with Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, who led an effort in passing legislation that allows Ford to participate in Illinois’ Economic Development for a Growing Economy (EDGE) program, which provides tax incentives to businesses that commit to new investments and create or retain jobs in the state. This legislation allows Ford to participate in the EDGE program through payroll tax credits rather than corporate income taxes.
Ford investment of $400 million in Chicago-area manufacturing facilities and Explorer fuel economy improvement of at least 25 percent is also supported by Ford green relationship with the U.S. Department of Energy. Chicago Assembly Plant is one of 11 Ford facilities in the U.S. participating in the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Incentives Program initiated by Congress and implemented by the Obama administration. The program is helping to develop advanced technology vehicles and strengthen American manufacturing across the country. Ford, Nissan, Tesla, Fisker and Tenneco are all participants in this initiative.
Ford has sold more than 6 million Explorer vehicles since the vehicle was originally launched in 1990; Explorer has been America’s best-selling midsize SUV for 15 of the past 19 years. Production of the next generation Explorer will begin in the fourth quarter of 2010.
The current Explorer and Explorer Sport Trac models are built at the company’s Louisville Assembly Plant in Kentucky. Shifting production of the next-generation Explorer to Chicago Assembly paves the way for Louisville Assembly to undergo transformation to a flexible, fuel-efficient small car plant from a truck-based SUV plant. Ford will begin producing new vehicles at Louisville Assembly based on its global C-car platform in 2011. The specific models will be named at a later date.
The Chicago Assembly Plant, opened in 1924, currently has approximately 1,200 employees working on one shift. Ford’s Chicago Stamping Plant, which opened in 1956, has approximately 700 employees on two shifts. Opened in 1955, Louisville Assembly Plant has approximately 1,000 employees operating on one shift.