On November 8th, 2012, Ford gave journalists a tour of its retooled Wayne Michigan Assembly Plant. The plant builds the C-Max Hybrid, C-Max Energi, Focus SE with the Super Fuel Economy Package, Focus ST, and Focus Electric. The assembly line is three miles long winding throughout a 5-million square-foot building which cost $550 million to retool. The C-platform vehicles built simultaneously on the line include gasoline, electric, hybrid, and plug-in drivetrains. It took Ford more than four years of planning and employee training to get the plant operational.
There were three crews on two different shifts but Ford added a third shift of 1,200 employees. The plant now employs 5,170 workers. Many of the employees are young and have never worked in automobile manufacturing before. The plant is able to quickly shift to build different vehicles to meet government incentives, fluctuating gasoline prices, or slow adoption of specific drivetrains by customers, such as the Focus Electric. The production plans can be altered as often as twice each month. Bill Frykman, Ford business development manager, said the less expensive young workforce and the ability to produce five different vehicles on one line has reduced the operational costs for the plant by 30%. Ford said that it expects as many as 25% of it’s US sales will be “electrified vehicles” by 2020.
On the day the journalists toured the facility, 1,234 vehicles were scheduled to be finished. Of those, 218 were C-Max. The plant is limited to finishing about 1,200 vehicles per day and no more than 300 (25%) of those can be the C-Max Hybrid/Energi. In other words, the maximum number of C-Max Hybrid/Energi vehicles Ford can produce per month is about 9,000. The C-Max Energi takes longer to make than the Focus. John Davis, the chief engineer for the C-Max stated that Ford expects only 15-20% of the C-Max’s sold would be the Energi model. I’m just speculating, but perhaps the plant is also limited to producing about 60 Energi’s per day (20% of 300) or 1,800 per month. According to the Detroit News, Ford has sold just 346 Focus Electric cars this year but they have produced nearly 1,400. Ford definitely won’t need to make Focus Electrics at the plant for awhile. The C-Max Energi with just a few days shipping in October even out sold the Focus Electric by 144 to 118.
In an earlier blog, I predicted that Ford would sell more than 6,000 C-Max Hybrid/Energi vehicles in November. If they achieve this, it would be close to the maximum number they could produce. Perhaps I was over optimistic about the sales for November. I’ll make another prediction. It will be difficult for Ford to keep up with C-Max Energi demand. With the California HOV Lane restrictions, I would guess that they could sell 20,000 Energi’s in California alone this year. That could be close to the maximum number of Energi’s they can manufacture in one year.
Here’s a Ford video of the plant: Home of the Ford Focus Electric: Michigan Assembly Plant Tour.
Detroit Free Press, C-Max Energi joins varied lineup at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne
Wall Street Cheat Sheet, Here’s How Ford Will Dethrone Toyota