Ford boosts production of two big SUVS at Kentucky plant

Ford boosts production of two big SUVS at Kentucky plant

Earlier in February, the vice president for US marketing and sales at Ford Mark LaNeve said the company could not make enough Lincoln Navigators.

So even though sales of full-size SUVs are relatively modest overall, it's probably safe to say that Ford has two hits on its hands with the new Expedition and Navigator.

The increased investment comes on top of $900 million in assembly line changes made past year to produce the overhauled 2018 model Expedition and Navigator.

The Expedition and Navigator are two of the highest-priced vehicles Ford sells, and the production increase at the Kentucky Truck factory comes as investors are growing restless as Ford's automotive profit margins have shrunk to 3.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2017 from 5.7 percent a year earlier.

The response from customers for the company's new full-size SUVs has been excellent, said Ford's Joe Hinrichs the global operations president.

That facility will increase assembly line speed and help the company reach its new production goals.

"Using a combination of Ford's advanced manufacturing and American hard work and ingenuity, we'll deliver more high-quality Lincoln Navigators and Ford Expeditions to customers than originally planned".

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Customers are trading in Land Rover and Mercedes vehicles and around 85% of buyers choose high end Black Label and Reserve models. The average transaction price rose $7,800 in January thanks to a 29 percent mix of the most expensive Platinum trim, which starts at $76,595. Ford also added overtime and voluntary weekend shifts in an attempt to keep up with demand.

The Expedition and Navigator are among the company's most profitable vehicles. Year to date they are down 14.7 percent while shares in No. 1 US automaker GM, which is seen by analysts as having a clearer vision and better operational focus, are up 1.2 percent.

The plant's biggest product is the Super Duty pickup truck (F-250 to F-550).

The use of aluminum in the new Expedition/Navigator required an extensive renovation of the plant.

Upgrades at the site include 400 new robots, a new 3D printer that allows workers to make parts and tools faster, and enhanced data analytics to keep the assembly line moving as efficiently as possible.

The plant employs more than 8,400 people in all, including about 8,100 full-time production workers represented by United Auto Workers Local 862.

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