In anticipation of the flurry of electrified Ford vehicles due by the end of 2013, the automaker has revamped its Van Dyke transmission plant in Michigan. A new assembly line responsible for building front-drive transmissions is the newest addition to the plant, helping to add 225 jobs. The production launch is part of Ford's $632-million commitment to increase capacity by 2015.
Dubbed the HF35, the new front-drive hybrid transmission is the first to be built in North America, and also Ford's first crack at designing and building a hybrid transmission in-house. By moving production from Japan to the U.S., Ford says it has reduced development costs by 20 percent.
The investment in the plant goes toward new equipment flexible enough to support building the HF35 and a conventional six-speed automatic transmission at the same time. Using two electric motors, the HF35 will motivate five new Ford models scheduled to make their debut this year: the plug-in Fusion Energi and C-Max Energi as well as the C-Max, Fusion, and Lincoln MKZ hybrids.
Ford hopes to add 12,000 hourly jobs in the U.S. by 2015. The plant recently added 130 jobs for the hybrid transmission launch, bringing the total number of plant workers to 1350.