By Jeffery Gilbert, CBS Detroit
FLAT ROCK, MI — (WWJ) One of Ford’s most popular vehicles, that has been made in Mexico, is now also being made in the USA.
“Fusions are now rolling off the line here at Flat Rock Assembly,” said Ford President of the America’s Joe Hinrichs at a Thursday morning celebration of the ceremonial first Fusion to roll off of the assembly line at the Flat Rock Plant, just south of Detroit.
Fusions are being built on the assembly line along with the Ford Mustang. The additional production has meant a new shift, and 1,400 new jobs.
“I think it’s great to see jobs come back to the USA,” said worker Jim Freese, who’s been with Ford 26 years.
Worker George Bollinger has been on the job just two and a half weeks. He’s hoping that he can make a career in the auto industry.
“We’ve gone through a lot of struggles in recent years,” said Bollenger. “For this opportunity to come along is much needed and much welcome.”
Ford took full control of the Flat Rock Plant a few years ago, after Mazda pulled out of a joint venture. The plant started life as a Mazda facility.
The Fusion has been made in Mexico since it’s debut. During the 2011 contract talks, Ford agreed that it would add production in Flat Rock, if there was demand.
“This is really historic,” said UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles. “It’s the first time that we’ve been able to make the same vehicle as somebody did off shore.”
Ford has sold 181,000 Fusions so far this year, and dealers have said they have demand for more. The additional production in Flat Rock will allow them to build 30 percent more Fusions than before.
“Right now, we know there’s more demand for our product,” he said. “So, we’ll see where that goes. We’re not chasing a number. We’re not chasing a sales crown.”
Ford has also been trying to squeeze more production out of each plant. The company not talking about a possible third shift at Flat Rock. They say that will come if there’s market demand.
But, they’ve obviously made a big investment.
“We’ve invested about$ 555 million, and we’ve installed a state of the art, fully flexible body shop, capable of producing multiple vehicles,” says plant manager Tim Young.
Ford is now 75 percent of the way toward its goal of adding 12 thousand manufacturing jobs by 2015. UAW Vice President Jimmy Settle enthused the crowd by saying maybe they could add 8 thousand more.
He later admitted that was wishful thinking. But said it’s his job to try to convince car companies to add more jobs.
While Settles says we’re not likely to see any new assembly plants soon, he also said he’s grateful that the union and Ford could work together to save–and expand–an existing facility.
“This very location was on the chopping block. We didn’t even know if this plant was going to stay open. Look at us now.”