Ford invests $1 billion in Chicago plants amid effort to revamp stagnant lineup

By AutoFOXBusiness

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Ford Motor Co. is investing $1 billion in its Chicago plants, a boost that the carmaker expects to create 500 new jobs as it prepares to roll out several high-profile additions to its previously stagnant lineup.

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Announced on Thursday, the initiative is aimed at expanding production capabilities at its assembly and stamping facilities that will manufacture the updated 2020 Ford Explorer, Police Interceptor Utility and the all-new Lincoln Aviator. The overhaul, which will begin in March, is expected to eventually bring total employment at the Chicago plants to 5,800.

“We reinvented the Explorer from the ground up, and this investment will further strengthen Ford’s SUV market leadership,” President Joe Hinrichs said.

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Among the improvements is updates to the cafeteria, new break areas and upgraded security features – all part of a $40 million attempt to make the facilities “a better place to work.”

“This investment is a testament to the strength and vibrancy of Chicago’s manufacturing sector,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “The assembly plant is a local and regional economic engine.”

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Ford is hoping the Explorer and Aviator -- along with updates to its widely popular F-Series -- will help turn around its financial results, which have suffered in recent quarters amid struggles in China and other markets.

The Dearborn, Michigan-based company is undergoing an $11 billion restructuring plan that to-date has included thousands of layoffs in Europe. CEO Jim Hackett previously ruled out any “blue collar cuts” in the U.S.

The introduction of its new lineup already had a small hiccup. Ford on Wednesday announced it would recall 3,500 newly shipped Ranger pickups due to a shifting issue.

The carmaker lost $116 million in the fourth quarter. Overall for 2018, net income dropped 50 percent to $3.7 billion. Ford expects President Trump’s double-digit tariffs on steel and aluminum imports to add $700 million in costs in 2019, while a hard-Brexit could add as much as $1 billion in costs in Europe.

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Amid concerns over its cash flow, a company spokesman previously told Fox Business that as it redesigns its global business “the market will recognize our progress.”