By on August 30, 2013

2014-Ford-Fusion-at-Flat-Rock-front-three-quarter-796x528

For the first time, yesterday Ford started assembling the midsize Fusion sedan in the United States as production began at their Flat Rock, Michigan facility. That move will add about 100,000 units a year to Fusion production, which was formerly only done in Hermosillo, Mexico. Ford is looking at options for expanding American capacity even more, should demand grow, and a Ford executive says that the Flat Rock plant could produce yet another model in addition to the Mustangs and Fusions that are currently assembled there.

“We certainly have the flexibility for the future to do more,” Ford president of the Americas, Joe Hinrichs told Reuters. “We’re trying to get our capacity set up to meet demand. With the growing demand for our trucks, growing demand for Fusion, other product lines, that’s what we’re focused on.”

Demand for the Fusion, up 13% from last year, outstripped Hermosillo’s supply, even though the car is currently selling at an average transaction price of about $2,300 more than the best selling car in its segment, the Toyota Camry.

“We could have sold more [Fusions] if we had more,” Hinrichs said. “We expect the sales momentum to stay here in the U.S. and around the world.”

The Flat Rock plant is flexible enough to handle another vehicle. The Mustang and Fusion currently built there are based on completely different platforms.

“The Mustang and the Fusion are two different platforms, so we’ll be introducing two right now, but we certainly have the flexibility for the future to do more,” Hinrichs said. “We could do a lot of different things.”

UAW officials also hinted that another vehicle could be built at Flat Rock. “I don’t think we’re done yet,” said Tony Bondy, chairman of the Flat Rock factory’s UAW Local 3000. “I’ll leave it at that.”

UAW workers at Flat Rock underwent an intensive production training program intended to eliminate quality control problems that plagued Fusion and Lincoln MKZ production startups at Hermosillo. “We’ve done an unprecedented level of training for the new workers here,” Hinrichs said at the Flat Rock plant.

Every one of the 1,400 workers hired to staff the added third shift at Flat Rock went through 40 hours of training that Ford says was more intensive than the training given prior to the launch of the Ford Escape at the Louisville assembly plant. Ford also says that lessons were learned from that launch and that of the MKZ. The new Escape was the subject of a number of recalls and the MKZ launch was hampered by supply and quality control issues.

Flat Rock workers are now said to be trained in a more realistic environment that includes 10 different training areas for different assembly operations. “We took actual conveyers in the factory and installed them over there so people are working on the car in position, just like they’re going to be working on the floor,” Flat Rock plant manager Tim Young said.

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71 Comments on “As Fusion Builds Start at Flat Rock, Ford Considers More U.S. Production...”


  • avatar
    kjb911

    was down at Tasca Ford yesterday, notice the panel gaps are tighter on both the fusion and MKZ hopefully a sign that it was just a early production fault that has been ironed out

    • 0 avatar
      Nostrathomas

      This speaks to my ignorance about assembling a car, but how does one car have different panel gaps than another of the same model? I would think these cars are all drawn in CAD, machined by robots, and the parts are just more or less clicked together like legos by the worker, with very little possibility of play. Wouldn’t wide panel gaps mean that means there’s some major design flaw right off the start?

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Sheet metal parts are stamped and they can end up with some variances, then there is the tolerances that can add up when fitting and welding all those pieces together. As far as things like the doors, trunk lid and hood they do have attachment holes that allow for adjustment, partially due to those mfg tolerances and partially to allow for repair-ability. Some of it of course can be due to problems further up the system like tooling that isn’t in spec.

        • 0 avatar
          mikey

          @Scoutdude…The further the vehicle travels down the line the harder it is to put together.

          A stamping press may run eighteen strokes a minute. A door inner may have 40 punched holes in it. If a punch breaks and nobody catches it. We call that a “spill”

          Too many spills? Believe me ,heads will roll?

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            Yes, it certainly does for many reasons. Also something far up stream, like a damaged stamping die, can be just too late to properly correct if it is now a part of a mainly assembled vehicle.

          • 0 avatar
            mikey

            Oh yeah its easy for the panel racker to catch an up ding,or a down ding. They all carry a flat stone in their pocket.

            You need a dedicated inspector,to count holes. I tried it once, I lasted about 6 hours.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            It seems like counting holes would be the perfect job for a robot with the advances in 3d scanning. I know I’d go cross eyed if I had to count holes in identical panels for hours on end.

      • 0 avatar
        mikey

        The engineers usually include an oval shapped hole to allow for variables. CAD technology has vastly improved fit. However no process is perfect. Up until the late nineties shims were used everywhere. Tolerances have been tightend ,but with plastics,sometimes thing won’t line up.

        As I’ve pointed out before, the standards are set by management. There is a down side to the moving assembly line. The workers duties are timed to the second. If he, or she, can’t properly finish a particular vehicle within the time frame. The term we use is “let it go,and flag it” The line repair station, may pick it up.
        If not it goes to reject.

        In reject, the repair people are not working on a moving conveyor. Makes the repair a whole lot simpler.
        The repair people in reject are picked on a seniority basis. However while the seniority will allow you to get the job. You are still required to perform the job to management standards. If not? Union, or no union, you will be removed and reassigned. I’ve seen it happen,dozens of times.

        • 0 avatar

          Thanks Mikey for the info. So, would you say a reject is actually better assembled in the end?

          • 0 avatar
            mikey

            Hey Marcelo! Always a pleasure. To answer your question, no. Its always better to build “in station” If the line operator can’t get it,there is dedicacted repair stations. In Trim and Hardware we used “line chasers|. Certainly not a job for the timid,or the guy that’s all thumbs.

            That being said, “reject” is your final line of defence. Something like a goalie in hockey,or Soccer.

          • 0 avatar

            Thanks Mikey, you should see how they do it here at the Fiat factory. I’ve seen it done here and it’s pretty amazing and actually kind of terrible. I’ve seen bumpers pulled from one car and put onto the reject…Looks terrifying for the uninitiated, for those who’ve seen, guess it’s part and parcel. Always love your stories from the trenches. Keep ‘em coming, I always learn a lot!

          • 0 avatar
            mikey

            I once remarked to a senior manager, “wouldn’t it be great if we could eliminate reject”

            He answered “Mikey, if you can figure a way to accomplish that,you will be my boss by the end of the week”

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          That is the process engineer’s job, to make it so the job performed at every station takes the exact same minimum number of seconds.

        • 0 avatar
          PenguinBoy

          @mikey -
          I always enjoy your posts with an insiders view of how cars are actually made.

          Have you ever considered writing up some stories about your experiences, either here or at Curbside Classics?

          I’ll bet you could come up with some good material on the way things are done, and they way they have changed over the years.

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          Where would the “reject” area be on the line? Are there areas off to the side, especially once you have a “car,” for alignment of fenders, say?

          How often would a vehicle have enough “rejects” where they would just pull all the major components, or just send the vehicle to be crash-tested or crushed?

      • 0 avatar
        skor

        Nope, there will always be variances in mass manufactured parts. There is no way to mass produce something to be exactly 100mm long, every time, at a reasonable cost. Robotics, CAD, computers, advances in materials etc, have all made huge improvements over they years, but there will always be slight differences in mass made parts.

        I have an Elderly neighbor who is a retired mechanical engineer. When this man was in engineering school, he was required to complete a short internship out in the real word. He spent some time at Ford’s Edgewater assembly plant in Edgewater, New Jersey. Edgewater Assembly was closed in 1955 so that will give you some idea of how old this guy is. Anyway, according to my neighbor, the line workers at Edgewater Assembly used baseball bats and 2X4s to bend, twist and otherwise force fenders, doors, deck lids and hoods into alignment. I’ll bet that there are no baseball bats being used on the line at Flatrock today…at least not to straighten doors.

        • 0 avatar

          You’d be surprised. I don’t think there are too many baseball bats (though they’d probably come in handy sometimes), but the amount of banging, pushing, shoving, physically manhandling stuff to go where they should is just par for the course.

          • 0 avatar
            threeer

            First…happy to see production (of any sort) returning BACK to America. I hope the trend continues. Too many jobs have left our shores.
            As for baseball bats, can’t attest to that. But in the last days of Tempo/Topaz production, I was witness to some serious “line rework” at final inspection for things like hood latches and such. “Get a bigger hammer” was the key phrase. If the hood didn’t quite fit, wham, wham, wham! Adjust the latch with a hammer!

    • 0 avatar
      Aquineas

      I’m a current 2013 Ford Fusion owner, and a past Honda Accord and Acura TL owner, so I say this with as much impartiality as possible. If you want to see loose panel gaps and uneven fit, look no further than the hood area of the last generation Honda Accord (look at the area just beneath the a-pillars). On the 2013 Fusion, I found that many early Fusions have a problem where the hood meets the nose clip.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    More jobs for the guys on the line = good.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    I know zip about Michigan. Flatrock appears to be as unlike Detroit as can be though it’s only, what, 15 miles away?. Wiki says that the 2010 census reported 9878 residents, 91% highly reflective.

    Sounds like a nice hourly gig and neighborhood for thems as can get it and for a few years yet.

    • 0 avatar
      namesakeone

      Flat Rock is a small city in Wayne County, the same county as Detroit, and it is about 20-30 miles away from Detroit (just a guesstimate; I didn’t actually look up the distance). The former AutoAlliance plant–a joint venture between Ford and Mazda before Ford bought controlling interest in Mazda–also built the Mazda MX-6 and Ford Probe (both versions), the 1988-2002 Mazda 626, the 1998-2002 Mercury Cougar, the 2003-2012 Mazda 6, and since 2005 builds the Ford Mustang. The plant is probably Flat Rock’s biggest employer, but they also have a Manheim Auto Auction location within the city, as well as a 1/2-mile speedway.

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        Thanks. Sounds like a typical Midwestern small town of yore that’s gotten lucky for a while. More power to it.

      • 0 avatar
        skor

        I had a first gen Probe LX. Reliability was average for it’s day. The worst thing that happened was that the tans grenaded at 153K….design flaw, not bad assembly. I do remember, and was quite impressed, that the car was tight and rattle-free the entire time I owned it.

        • 0 avatar
          namesakeone

          I also had a first-gen Probe, though mine was a GL (a four cylinder; if yours was a 1990-1992, it was a six), and it was the only car I ever bought new. And my automatic transaxle also destroyed itself, only at 120K–and the local trans shop couldn’t repair it, even after four attempts. I ended up trading it for another car manufactured at Flat Rock (this time a manual), and that car for another from Flat Rock. Should I be seeking therapy?

  • avatar
    genuineleather

    Am I the only one who sees Flat Rock as a missed opportunity to differentiate the MKZ and high-trim Fusions from the rabble?

    “Well sir, the Titanium trim *is* quite a bit more expensive, but it’s built on a dedicated line here in the US.”

    Not that most people know or even care where their car is assembled.

    • 0 avatar
      IndianaDriver

      People should care where their cars are made. American auto assemblers, whether they work for U.S., Japanese or German auto companies all put a lot of money into the U.S. economy. When you buy a car made in another country, you’re only putting money into their country’s economy. Our country cannot be a service only economy and survive.

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        Amen, Hoosier.

        People in Flatrock get to stay first-world for a while yet.

      • 0 avatar
        ZoomZoom

        I used to care WHERE my car was made, until I completely had it with General Motors.

        Now I care more HOW WELL my car was made.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        “Our country cannot be a service only economy and survive.”

        That is for certain, though a big problem we are facing in returning manufacturing to the US is our lack of enough trained manufacturing engineers to attend to the line. Currently there are more degree holding engineers in China than there are in the US with a high percentage of them being manufacturing engineers while a low percentage of the few engineers we are turning out are manufacturing engineers.

        A recent article on Google/Motorolla’s new MotoX that will be manufactured in the US showed that the difference in cost wasn’t that significant with analysts pegging it between $3.50~$4.00 per unit more expensive to manufacture it in Texas than China or less than 1% of the un-subsidized price.

    • 0 avatar
      Ion

      I’ve seen the Kentucky plant put stickers in the windows of Escapes. I just have a “assembled with pride” sticker on one of the quarter windows.

      Our Nummi Matrix doesn’t have any visible origin stickers, I think the foreign makes are worried they’ll scare away the reverse-xenophobes if they put that their vehicle was “made with Pride blah blah blah” on the windows.

  • avatar
    Nostrathomas

    Are there any metrics/studies from the past to see how Flat Rock compares to Hermosillo in terms of quality?

    My SIL is looking for a Fusion. She would really prefer to buy American (whatever that means these days) so I’m guessing she’d rather prefer it be from Michigan than Mexico.

    I wonder if its possible to specify which plant your Ford comes from. I know when we bought our VW Golf way back when, we made sure it a Wolfsburg build, as opposed to Mexico.

    • 0 avatar
      ZoomZoom

      “Are there any metrics/studies from the past to see how Flat Rock compares to Hermosillo in terms of quality?”

      To me this is the #1 question, and I would like to know the answer too.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      If you are ordering the vehicle something Ford is encouraging much more than they did in the recent past then no you likely won’t be able to pick the plant it was made in. However if you are buying from dealer stock you can tell which plant it came from by looking at the VIN. If it starts with 1 it was made in the US and a 3 means it was made in Mexico, while 2 means Canada. The 11th digit being a 5 would indicate that it was made in the Flat Rock MI, Automotive Allaince International plant as would the mfg code of ZV in the 2nd and 3rd positions as that is the AAI mfg code. Though Ford may be changing that to FA sooner or later since Mazda is no longer involved.

    • 0 avatar
      CGHill

      I’ve owned two Mazdas (the 626) from Flat Rock; the second one, a ’00 I bought new, was the most reliable car I’ve ever owned, with unscheduled maintenance over 6 years coming to $300, two-thirds of which was to replace a cracked windshield. (There was one recall, for a possibly ill-fitting brake-fluid reservoir cap.)

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    When I first read about the Flat Rock Fusion production a year or so ago, they were going to continue building the Fusion Hybrid in Hermosillo only. I wonder if that’s still the plan. The C-Max uses the same powertrain, and it’s built in Wayne, Michigan, roughly 16 miles away.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      While on the surface it seems like it would make more sense to produce the Fusion Hybrid near the C-max there are other factors at play. The last I checked the EPA considered a mfgs imported and domestic fleet separately for CAFE calculations. That is why for quite some time enough of the Grand Marquis was sourced outside of North America so it could be considered an “imported car” for CAFE purposes while the Crown Victoria which was built on the same Saint Thomas Ontario assembly line was considered a “domestic” car. This was before NAFTA so that may have changed as Mexico may be considered the 52nd state since NAFTA.

  • avatar
    jimmyy

    Ford has been pumping this story everywhere. It is all over the web, and MSNBC even did a morning show at the factory. This story is nothing more than Ford propaganda attempting to create Fusion demand with over the top hype. This is deceptive advertising.

    • 0 avatar

      C’mon. Ford may be pumping it, but setting up the tools, training people, logistics, suppliers, administitative people all as a marketing exercise? Well, if you believe that, I’ll tell you what, Elvis is alive, and Neil Armstrong jumped on the moon in a studio in Houston.

    • 0 avatar

      So you’re saying that we should have ignored the fact that Ford just increased Fusion capacity by 40% and increased payroll at Flat Rock by 1,400 people? How are we to tell when the announcement of a production startup is propaganda and when it’s not?

      We understand that there is a gray area in between publishing news and reprinting press releases. The fact that a number of other publications and news agencies, from a variety of perspectives considered it worth running speaks to its newsworthiness. You didn’t say it was propaganda when we ran stories about production of Volvos and Jeeps in China, did you?

      Whether you or I like it or not, a lot of what we do here at TTAC when it comes to the car biz necessarily is done in that nexus between publicity and news. That’s what happens when you cover an industry (and a hobby too). We try to do a good job distinguishing between what’s propaganda and what’s information.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Come on you know Jimmyy is right, it is all just a way for Ford to get free advertizing. You know setting up the production line, training 1400 employees, and getting it all running is really cheaper than buying ads and telling people that the car is in short supply will make everyone run out and buy one.

    • 0 avatar
      jimmyy

      You guys are sure drinking Ford Kool-Aid. Alan “47/47″ Mullay is likely bringing Fusion production in order to satisfy a 2011 UAW agreement for increased US jobs. But, this point is never mentioned in any version of this FlatRock Fusion propaganda release that I have seen. Instead, Ford implies the jobs are meant to satisfy some huge supply shortage of the rebate leading Ford Fusion.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    In other news, Toyota Camry’s product manager was heard saying, “damn it.”

  • avatar

    The Fusion has always been well received in Brazil though I like the Mondeo way more. In fact, there are waiting liss for them at dealers. Maybe this move will allow them to export more to Brazil as they come from Mexico with reduced tarriffs. Big winner for Ford.

    • 0 avatar
      Onus

      Isn’t Brazil ignoring its free trade obligations with Mexico?

      How is the mondeo? I don’t know anyone who owns one personally on my European trips.

      • 0 avatar

        I should’ve written I liked the Mondeo more. As far as I know, the Fusion or Mondeo are basicaly identical now, except that the Mondeo has a crazy turbo 1.0 engine! I was comparing the American only Fusion with the European only Mondeo. The pre Kinetic design Mondeo is a great looking car and the 2.0 engine in it was wonderful. Great handling, refined, great content. The previous NA Fusion seemed a little meaner in finish and the sharing the same engine with the Ranger…Ran out of breath sometimes and a little noisy for a car. My biggest gripe with the NA Fusion was the turning circle. The car couldn’t turn” With our smallish streets and tight parking, it could be a handful.

        The new Fusion I havent driven. But by all accounts, from people I know and journalists I repect, it’s the pick of the litter now.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        For now, the Fusion and Mondeo are different cars.

        The current Mondeo has been out for six years. The next Mondeo will be the same design as the current North American Fusion.

        (There was also a Fusion in Europe, but it was an MPV that had no relationship to the US sedan.)

  • avatar
    Ion

    I can’t complain about my Flat Rock vehicle.

  • avatar
    thornmark

    Meanwhile, at Edmunds, the Fusion is well down the “top twenty” in reader interest:
    http://www.edmunds.com/car-reviews/consumers-most-popular.html

    And just #10 of “top ten” sedans in reader interest:
    http://www.edmunds.com/sedan/

    If this car is so hot, why the lukewarm, at best, consumer interest?

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Looking at your first link of most researched vehicles in the last month it sure looks to me like it is #3 in it’s class only beat by the Accord and Camry. Of course the other list contradicts that it says nothing about why the vehicles are in that order and again some of them aren’t really something one would shop against the Fusion like the Civic and BMW.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    Its about the jobs . Kudos to anything that creates them, in manufacturing especially.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    This is asking for trouble, when you start a new model at any given plant, you go slow first, then speed up as workers get accustomed to their tasks, in this case, this is an existing model and one that is in high demand and short supply, no time to dilly dally, so if they speed up the line,as I suspect they have,there will be quality and assembly issue galore, no one is immune from this.

  • avatar
    Power6

    Lots of good cars have been built at the Flat Rock plant.


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