Ford will build more of the fast-sellingn Explorer at its Chicago Assembly Plant

Article by Christian Andrei, on June 19, 2015

“To match production to demand,” Ford Motor revealed in a statement that it will make more of the fast-selling Explorer and will not assemble the 2017 Lincoln Continental at the factory that presently rolls out the MKS sedan. Ford didn’t say what plant will produce the Continental. But from sources, we found out that its assembly will be in Flat Rock, Mich., together with the Fusion.

Sources added that the Continental will be built on an extended version of the Fusion platform while the MKS has the same underpinnings as the Taurus. In the statement, Ford said that its Chicago Assembly Plant, which it referred to as “vital” to its global manufacturing footprint, will still produce the Ford Taurus, Ford Explorer and Police Interceptor vehicles even after the MKS is phased out in 2016.

Ford’s president of the Americas Joe Hinrichs recently spoke to the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce at an event to mark the beginning of production of the 2016 Explorer. Hinrichs said that the Lincoln will “fade” as soon as the Continental arrives next year. It will then use up the freed capacity to build more Explorers.

From the start of the year through May, Explorer sales have increased by 15%. In comparison, Taurus sales fell by 30% while the MKS suffered a 19% decline. Those numbers are inclusive of the Police Interceptor versions of the Explorer and Taurus, which are produced at Chicago Assembly and upfitted by a subsidiary located nearby.

Last year in Chicago, Ford made 8,324 MKS units. It built 284,993 Explorers and 73,355 Taurus units. Ford has yet to confirm what the Continental’s production plans are. The automaker said that the location of the plant will be revealed as the launch nears. The Flat Rock plant, which used to operate as a joint venture with Mazda Motor, is one of the few Ford plants in the U.S. that has the capacity to produce the Continental.

It builds the Mustang aside from the Fusion. From the Automotive News Data Center, we learned that the plant is scheduled to not operate for four weeks (June 15 to July 13) -- twice as long as the usual summer shutdown.

Chicago Assembly is one of five Ford plants that will be shut down for one week to increase output. It’s easy to conclude that the lengthy shutdown at Flat Rock will allow for some retooling to prepare for a new nameplate.

This plant is scheduled for another downtime this September for two weeks. A source told Automotive News that Ford officials told workers about its output of the F-150 pickup in Dearborn, Mich., being reduced in the last few months because of a shortage of supplier-made frames for the truck.

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