Ford begins F-150 production at Claycomo Friday

By Steve Rosen,The Kansas City Star

The wait is over at Ford Motor Co.’s Claycomo assembly plant.

Ford officially begins producing the new, aluminum-bodied F-150 pickup truck at the Claycomo plant Friday morning, culminating several years of planning, training and hiring and more than $1 billion in investments to upgrade the massive complex.

The Claycomo plant, which also builds the new Transit commercial van, added 900 workers earlier this year to create a third truck line shift. Ford said the plant has 7,485 employees, including 7,189 hourly workers.

Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of the Americas, will be at Claycomo for a ceremony to mark the first new F-150 to roll off the line here. He will be joined by Jimmy Settles, United Auto Workers vice president and director of its national Ford department.

Ford’s truck plant in Dearborn, Mich., also builds the aluminum-bodied truck, which was designed to be about 700 pounds lighter and more fuel efficient than previous versions of the best-selling vehicle. The Dearborn plant began full F-150 production late last year.

“The all-new F-150 has surpassed our expectations, setting new standards for full-size truck capability, technology and efficiency,” Hinrichs says in remarks prepared for the ceremony. “With production starting (here), we are better poised to start meeting growing customer demand for our pickup.”

Settles congratulated members of UAW Local 249 for their contributions leading up to the launch. But he also noted that the addition of 900 jobs and more than $1 billion in investments at the plant “provides tremendous stability to the Kansas City community, for which the entire UAW-Ford family can be proud.”

The Claycomo plant, which has long been home to the F-150, will produce all models and cab configurations. The plant will also build a version that includes an 8-foot cargo box and heavy payload package for commercial fleet customers, Ford said.

Combined, the Claycomo and Dearborn assembly plants will have the capacity to produce more than 700,000 F-150s per year. Ford said January marked the strongest sales month since 2004 for F-150s, and retail sales increased 7 percent in February. The trucks, which carry a starting sticker price of $25,420, are currently sitting about 18 days on dealer lots — well below industry averages for light-duty, full-size pickups.

The groundwork for the investments at Claycomo started more than six years ago during the recession when Missouri made commitments to help the then-struggling automaker, Nixon’s prepared remarks say. The rollout of the F-150 “cements our position as America’s truck manufacturing headquarters and marks a historic moment that has been years in the making,” the governor’s remarks say.