by Cindy Leise
CLEVELAND — On the eve of the Cleveland Auto Show, Ford Motor Co. announced a third shift will begin in May at the Cleveland Engine Plant No. 1, where the fuel-efficient Ecoboost engine is being built.
The plant’s site manager, Charlie Binger, said the plant is delivering “an exciting product,” and 250 jobs will be retained.
“It’s not only great news for our site, but it’s great news for the community at large,” Binger said.
Participating in Friday’s press conference was Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, who said her 20-year-old son and most of his friends drive Ford F-150s to her home in what they call “Big Truck Night.”
“As soon as he knows there’s a new EcoBoost engine, we’ll be looking at a new Ford for him,” Taylor said with a laugh.
“Ford expects to be producing 200,000 more of these engines than they originally expected — that’s what I call success,” Taylor said, adding that the state provided job retention tax credits to keep those jobs in Ohio.
Ken Czubay, Ford’s U.S. vice president of sales, marketing and service, said Ford employs 7,200 workers in Northeast Ohio and Ford churns $3 billion through the economy.
Czubay said the EcoBoost has delivered both power and economy from a six-cylinder engine.
He said Ford started selling the engine in January 2011, and now it is the engine of choice in 40 percent of Ford’s F-150 best-selling workhorse.
“When people said, ‘I need an eight-cylinder,’ we said, ‘you may have a need for an eight-cylinder, but wait until you see this EcoBoost we produce in Cleveland,’ ” Czubay said. “Boy, did it do the job for us.”
After the press conference, Binger said the engine plant will churn out the new engines around the clock.
“We’re going to three crews and will be running around the clock in our machine departments and seven days a week in assembly,” Binger said. “My guess is it’s probably been 20 years since we’ve had that production from these facilities.
“It really is exciting for us to be able to keep folks employed,” Binger said. “It’s been a difficult time for the auto industry, and certainly the American auto industry is coming back strong, and we’re happy to be such a big part of that in Northeast Ohio.
Also attending the news conference was Alex Maciag, manager of the Ohio Assembly Plant in Avon Lake.
In November, Ohio provided $15 million of job retention tax credits for the Avon Lake plant to bring a medium-size truck back to the United States from Mexico.
Ohio Assembly will receive $128 million in upgrades as it is expected to take over production of Ford F-650 and F-750 medium trucks from a plant in Escobedo, Mexico.
Maciag said the plant will phase out the Econoline at the end of 2013 and begin production of its medium trucks, allowing it to retain most of its workers.
“The majority of our people will be retained, and that’s the good news,” Maciag said. “We have 1,700 hourly employees and about 100 salaried employees.”
When Ford ends production of the E-Series vans being built in Avon Lake, Ford is expected to make certain variants of the E-Series throughout most of the decade.
The E-Series van is being replaced by the Transit van, which will be built at the company’s Kansas City Assembly Plant, a move that will see Ford invest around $1 billion there.
Moving production of medium-size trucks to Ohio Assembly will end Ford’s Blue Diamond Truck LLC joint venture between Ford and Navistar International. That joint venture is building the trucks in Mexico.
Avon Lake Mayor Greg Zilka was bullish on the continuation of truck production at the Ohio Assembly Plant, calling its products “the bulldogs that help commerce move.”
“Ford is the backbone of Avon Lake’s economy, and we appreciate the fact they’re going to be with us quite some time, and we’re looking forward to working with them in the future,” Zilka said. “We’re proud of the broad-shouldered vehicles Ford puts out.”
Avon Lake auto dealer Regan Kowalski said buyers will be excited about the new styling and the fuel mileage they will see in the 2013 Fusions and Escapes with EcoBoost engines.
“I believe the Fusion is going to be 37 (mpg) for the EcoBoost and 47 for the hybrid, and the Escape should be in the same upper-30s range,” Kowalski said.
While those vehicles might have some impressive fuel use numbers, Ford’s economy winner at the auto Show was its 2012 Ford Focus electric, which boasts 100-plus mpg fuel economy figures.