LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Ford Motor Co. said Tuesday that it will add 2,000 jobs and invest $1.3 billion at the Kentucky Truck Plant to support production of new aluminum-body Super Duty trucks, deepening the automaker’s ties to a city where it has two large production facilities.
The investment, cheered by plant workers and Kentucky politicians, includes putting more workers on the final assembly line for the all-new 2017 F-Series Super Duty trucks, said Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of the Americas.
The company anticipates strong demand when the new trucks reach dealers’ lots late next year, he said.
“We definitely want to and expect to make more product in the future here at KTP,” he told reporters.
The automaker said the investment includes adding a new body shop, upgrading facilities and retooling at the sprawling plant — one of Ford’s largest — to build the 2017 models.
Outgoing Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear said the announcement was “a great way to go out of office.”
“We thoroughly appreciate Ford’s continued confidence in the commonwealth’s workforce and its pro-business environment,” said Beshear, who could not seek re-election this year because of term limits and leaves office next week.
The truck plant investment also will boost regional suppliers that do business with Ford, the governor said.
Ford has invested more than $1.5 billion in its Louisville operations in the past two years.
In early 2014, Ford announced an $80 million investment and added 350 jobs at the truck plant to churn out more Super Duty trucks. Across town, Ford invested $129 million at Louisville Assembly Plant, where production includes the Escape SUV.
Ford employs more than 9,000 workers and produces more than 2,000 vehicles daily at the Louisville two plants. The automaker began making vehicles in Kentucky in 1913 with 11 employees.
Kentucky Truck Plant produces F-250, F-350, F-450 and F-550 Super Duty pickups and chassis cabs, and the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator. In 2014, the plant produced 297,300 Super Duty trucks, 62,452 Expeditions and 12,502 Lincoln Navigators.
Through Nov. 2015, Ford has sold 695,143 F-Series pickups, which includes light and heavy duty. The Super Duty, which are heavy duty trucks, account for about one-third of that number, or roughly 231,714 through November.
Hiring has started for the additional jobs at the truck plant and will continue until next spring, Ford officials said. Wages for the majority of workers will start at $17 an hour, with pay raises built in through several years.
Holly Newport, who works in the truck plant’s paint shop, said some of her relatives and neighbours are getting hired as part of the additional workforce. For her, the investment means job security as she heads toward retirement in about nine years.
Bill Thurman, another plant worker, said the latest investment by Ford continues a big turnaround since the deep economic downturn crippled the auto industry a few years ago.
“This is where to be, right here,” he said. “This is where the jobs are.”
Hinrichs praised Beshear and Kentucky lawmakers for working with the automaker to ensure that Ford’s two plants in Louisville would survive the recession and then thrive once the auto industry bounced back.
“Anytime we needed something, he was quick to return the phone call,” Hinrichs said of Beshear. “That’s the kind of relationship you want to have.”
Hinrichs said he’s scheduled to speak soon with Gov.-elect Matt Bevin.
Meanwhile, the two Louisville plants are in line for additional future investments that Ford committed to as part of its new contract with the United Auto Workers. Hinrichs sidestepped questions Tuesday about what those investments might include.
“We’re always investing in our products and we’re always looking at new products to maintain our competitiveness,” he said. “So we’ll have more to say in the future.”
Associated Press Auto Writer Tom Krisher in Detroit contributed to this report.