Ford Plant Starts Making Way for Aluminum-Bodied F-150

Aug 25, 2014 05:20 PM EDT | Jordan Ecarma

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Ford has started the two-month overhaul of the F-150 plant in Dearborn, Mich., to make way for the new aluminum model slated for production this fall.

The F-150 pickup is the top-selling model in the U.S., so rebooting it with an aluminum body will be quite the undertaking.

"This is historic for the industry, not just for Ford," said Joe Hinrichs, Ford's president of the Americas, as quoted by Bloomberg News. "To take the No. 1 selling vehicle for 32 years--it will be 33 soon--and convert it like this, at this volume, to aluminum, is historic and unprecedented."

The last 2014 F-150 to be built at the Dearborn plant was put together on Aug. 22, and Ford crew members have started getting the plant ready for new equipment. Some 1,100 trucks will come into the factory to deliver the new tools needed to manufacture an aluminum F-150, Hinrichs said.

Ford will keep producing the 2014 F-150 at its truck plant near Kansas City, Miss., which will close next year to undergo the same process in order to manufacture aluminum-bodied pickups.

Transforming the Dearborn plant is an undertaking that needs extreme precision, Hinrichs said.

"This is a massive undertaking, one of the bigger logistical challenges we've ever seen," said Hinrichs, as quoted by Bloomberg News. "It's been orchestrated literally by the minute, by the truckload."

Scheduled to be in showrooms by the end of this year, the new F-150 is expected to be more than 700 pounds lighter than the traditional steel-bodied version, making for improved fuel economy.

Ford expects a drop in profit this year as the factories are retooled and new models are launched. The automaker reported a net income of $2.3 billion in the first two quarters of this year, which compares with $2.84 billion in the first half of 2013.

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