Updating and retooling a production plant can be expensive. Case in point: Ford just announced it will invest $850 million to retool and upgrade the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, slated to produce the new compact Ranger pickup truck by the end of 2018 and the Bronco SUV by 2020. The upgrade is scheduled to start in May 2018.
Ford also will invest $150 million in the Romeo Engine Plant to increase its capacity to produce engine components, some of which also will be used in the two new trucks. Currently, the Romeo plant makes engine parts for the Super Duty, high-performance Mustangs, E-Series vans and several SUVs.
Additionally, Ford will invest $200 million in the Flat Rock Assembly Plant to create a second data center (the first is at Ford's Dearborn headquarters) to help vehicles become more connected and improve mobility services for autonomous and electrified vehicles. It all adds up to a total of $1.2 billion in plant investments.
Ford says it will follow the same changeover strategy used to overhaul its two Ford F-150 plants, which took a relatively short time and had to be upgraded with machinery to accommodate the new aluminum body panels and the special adhesives and rivets used to attach them. To date, Ford has made no announcement about using aluminum in the new Ranger and Bronco, but if the successful F-150 and new Super Duty pickups are any indication, we're guessing there will be a great deal of light-weighting going for both new trucks.