Ford announced today it is investing nearly $400 million in its production facilities outside Chicago, Illinois, to handle production of the next-generation Explorer.
Nearly $180 million of that total will be spent in upgrading the manufacturing facilities at both Ford’s Chicago Assembly and Chicago Stamping facilities, with the remainder allocated towards launch and engineering costs. In order to accommodate the Explorer, Ford will add a second production shift consisting of approximately 1200 employees.
The current Explorer is built in Louisville, Kentucky, and St. Louis, Missouri, but it isn't surprising to learn production of the next model will move to Chicago. Ford’s transitioning the nameplate to a unibody crossover built upon a modified form of its D3/4 platform, which also underpins the Taurus and Lincoln MKS -- the two products currently built in Chicago.
Previewed in part by the Explorer America concept shown at the 2008 Detroit auto show, the next Explorer will also make use of Ford’s Ecoboost engine range, along with a six-speed automatic transmission. Ford expects the combination to yield a 25-percent improvement in fuel economy over the outgoing model.
Aside from showing us some innovative inflatable rear seatbelts, Ford’s been rather mum on the new Explorer. Expect to see further details on the company’s new crossover later this year -- perhaps even at the Chicago auto show.