CHICAGO | The nation’s improved economy and the sales of Police Interceptors has the Ford Chicago Assembly plant working at maximum capacity.
The plant at 126th and Torrence Avenue in the Hegewisch neighborhood has been operating with three shifts since last year with each crew working a 10-hour shift four days a week, said Carlo Bishop, president of United Auto Workers Local 551.
“The economy affects volume and the sales of vehicles,” said Bishop, who is currently running for his fourth term as Local 551’s president. “We’re staying well afloat with the sales of the Explorers. We’re shipping them to 90 countries.”
Explorer’s U.S. sales climbed 33 percent in March, the highest monthly sales since the current model debuted in 2010, the company reported.
“Last year exports of the SUV increased nearly 65 percent from 2011, to more than 24,000 vehicles,” the company stated. “Explorer was shipped to 64 countries including Canada, Mexico and Saudi Arabia. In Russia, SUV sales accounted for 31 percent of the market in 2012.”
Chicago Assembly makes the Ford Explorer, Ford Police Interceptor, Ford Taurus and Lincoln MKS.
Ford Motor Co. announced this week that 21 of its North American factories will shut for only one week this summer. That includes the Chicago plant.
The Chicago plant went to three-shift staffing in 2012 when it hired additional workers that brought its total employment up to 4,100. In 2008, the company had a workforce of 2,300.
“Five years ago, both plants operated with two crews which, at the time, was considered full capacity,” said Ford spokesman Chris Varones. “But since operating patterns at both plants were optimized, the plants went from two to three crews.”
Although the company won’t speculate publicly on prospective production and revenue figures, “in terms of financial health, Ford posted is best quarter ever in Q1 2013,” Varones said.
The newly-hired union workers are working on all crews and are paid according to the terms of the 2007 two-tiered labor agreement, which cut the hourly rate for new hires.
In 2012, the Chicago Assembly plant began production of Police Interceptor vehicles built on both the Explorer and Taurus platforms.
The Police Interceptors, which went on the market in early 2012, are being seen throughout the area and country, Bishop said.
“I’ve seen them in Calumet City, Richton Park, (Washington) D.C., in Michigan, where there being used by state troopers,” he said. “We’re seeing them all over. The city of Chicago bought 500 and (Mayor Rahm) Emanuel said he was going to send a letter to all the mayors praising them.”
The Interceptors come off the assembly line with police suspension, lights and other standard police parts. They are then sent for retrofitting for paint and other details as ordered by the individual police department, he said.