Ford Motor Company will invest $1 billion to upgrade its Ford assembly and stamping plants in Chicago and add 500 jobs to produce the new Ford Explorer, Police Interceptor Utility and Lincoln Aviator, the car manufacturer announced Thursday.
The assemby plant's transformation will start in March and be completed by spring, the company estimates. Its capacity will expand to produce the new SUVs slated to go on sale later this year. The 500 new full-time positions bring the total number of jobs at the two plants to about 5,800.
"As Chicago continues to strengthen our diverse economy, Ford’s commitment to add 500 jobs and infuse nearly a billion dollars into their Southeast Side assembly plant is a vote of confidence in our people and our future," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a statement.
"We reinvented the Explorer from the ground up," said Joe Hinrichs, president of Ford's Global Operations, in a statement, "and this investment will further strengthen Ford’s SUV market leadership."
The Chicago Assembly plant will get a new body shop and paint shop, and "major modifications" will be made to the final assembly area. The Chicago Stamping plant will see "all-new stamping lines in preparation for the 2020 Ford Explorer, Police Interceptor Utility and Lincoln Aviator."
"Advanced manufacturing technologies at the plants include a collaborative robot with a camera that inspects electrical connections during the manufacturing process," the company said in a statement. "In addition, several 3D printed tools will be installed to help employees build these vehicles with even higher quality for customers."
The company also plans to spend $40 million to improve the work experience and add new "LED lighting, cafeteria updates, new break areas and security upgrades in the parking lot."
"Ford's announcement of 500 additional jobs and over $1 billion in plant investments is a testament to the quality and hard work of UAW Ford members,” said Rory Gamble, Vice President of the UAW Ford Department. "Every day UAW Ford members head to work, proud of the products they build and the craftsmanship required in vehicles like the Explorer, Aviator and Police Interceptor. Ford’s investment announcement demonstrates a commitment to the dedication of UAW members in Chicago."