WHAS11 Exclusive: Ford plans compact SUV's at Louisville Assembly Plant



Posted on August 15, 2009 at 6:43 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 13 at 4:19 PM

Louisville, Ky. (WHAS11) - WHAS11 News has learned that the Ford Motor Company is replacing the Ford Explorer production at the Louisville Assembly Plant with three different compact SUV's . A Ford executive, however, cautions that the automaker has not confirmed or announced anything.

Ford Vice-President Joe Hinrichs is on a national tour with the new premium Ford Taurus, a vehicle that will not be built in Louisville. But what will take the place of Explorer production when it's moved out of Louisville in 2010?

"We have several options and several scenarios," Hinrichs told WHAS11's Joe Arnold after speaking to a Greater Louisville Inc. breakfast gathering "But, we are very pleased with our plan. We're proud of it. We're excited about it. We just can't talk about it yet."

Others familiar with the plan tell WHAS11 that it includes three different models of compact SUV's.

America is already familiar with the Mercury Mariner and the nearly identical Ford Escape, but not their European cousin - the Ford Kuga. Sources say these three cross-over SUV's are slated to take the place of the truck-based Explorer SUV on Fern Valley Road.

"We study all kinds of different things," cautioned Hinrichs, " sometimes those studies don't come to fruition and sometimes they do. And I'm not hedging, I'm just cautioning everybody to realize we study so many different scenarios. Sometimes the one scenario gets leaked but it may not be the end scenario."

About 1100 hourly workers are currently at LAP. Most will be laid off when Ford shuts the plant down in the second half of next year. But Hinrichs says Ford will probably employ two shifts to roll out the new product in 2011. That's roughly 2000 workers by the second half of 2011. Ideally, Ford wants three shifts running - nearly triple the current LAP workforce.

"We're going through this transition period right now, but when we get through it there is an exciting and very viable plant on the other end."

Still no word, however, when Ford will confirm or announce their vehicles for LAP. Despite all the uncertainty in the automobile industry, Ford is unequivocal in its commitment to both Louisville plants.

Hinrichs added that for the first time in 28 years, Ford is number one in a new quality survey -- showing fewer problems with its new cars than Toyota.