Ford Explorer for 2011
3rd December, 2010
Earlier this month the 'reinvented' 2011 Ford Explorer
began rolling off the production line at Ford’s Chicago Assembly Plant, marking a new beginning for
both the historic factory and the popular SUV.
The Torrence Avenue plant has been extensively renovated to accommodate production of the new
Explorer, and all employees have prepared for its launch by participating in extensive training
“Ford is investing in American manufacturing, ensuring that the most important new products
in the company’s line-up are built in the U.S. by UAW workers,” said Jim Tetreault, vice
president of North America Manufacturing. “We are thrilled to bring 2011 Ford Explorer
production to Chicago Assembly Plant along with the jobs and investment it provides to the region.
We look forward to finding more opportunities for competitively growing our business and providing
customers with capable, fuel-efficient, stylish, high-quality products.”
Ford Explorer – the vehicle that defined a segment 20 years ago with more than 6 million sold –
has been reinvented for the 2011 model year, raising customers’ expectations of sport utility
vehicle fuel efficiency, technology, capability and quality. The seven-passenger SUV also 'raises
the bar' on safety with a class-leading array of features including industry-first inflatable
rear seat belts, Trinity front impact structure, AdvanceTrac® with RSC® (Roll Stability Control™)
and Curve Control technology.
The all-new Ford Explorer SUV offers best-in-class fuel economy from high-tech powertrains,
featuring multiple enhancements to improve mechanical efficiency. Explorer comes standard with a
powerful, fuel-efficient 3.5-litre V6 engine with twin independent variable camshaft timing
(Ti-VCT). For customers wanting top SUV fuel economy, Explorer offers an optional 2.0-litre
EcoBoost™ I-4 engine.
Renovations, training ensure top quality for Ford Explorer
The next-generation Explorer is built at Chicago Assembly Plant on a flexible assembly line
alongside the Ford Taurus and Lincoln MKS sedans. Ford’s $400 million investment includes
approximately $180 million in manufacturing investments at the Chicago Assembly and nearby
Chicago Stamping Plant and about $220 million for launch and engineering costs. Ford also added
1,200 new jobs to staff a second production shift at Chicago Assembly and increase production
at Chicago Stamping.
The company’s investment at Chicago Assembly allowed for renovations to accommodate the
all-new Explorer, which is wider and taller than the outgoing model. This meant Ford had to
rework everything from vehicle carriers to the overhead clamshells that carry unfinished
vehicles from one part of the line to another. Twenty new pieces of equipment, 175 electric
tools and more than 70 rearranged workstations rounded out the enhancements.
All of these renovations were done without disrupting production of Taurus and MKS.
“No details were overlooked, because we are dedicated to ensuring our plant continues to
deliver the best, highest-quality products possible, and competes on the international stage
in an increasingly global auto industry,” said Jan Allman, Chicago Assembly Plant
Additionally, a “rough road” test track was revamped, featuring seven surfaces designed to
help employees identify any squeaks and rattles on vehicles before they leave the plant.
An updated error-proofing system also was incorporated that will benefit all the products
built at Chicago Assembly Plant. The system uses technology to assist operators at various
workstations in confirming proper vehicle assembly. A device resembling a key fob is used to
ensure the plant’s electrical tools have applied the proper amount of torque during assembly.
If any equipment does not receive the proper torque, the line will stop. With the assistance
of this technology, the operator has the necessary information to make a decision about
whether or not there is a concern. Any and all concerns are addressed before the vehicle is
permitted to move to the next assembly station.
“In addition to all of the physical upgrades we’ve made at the plant to prepare for
this important launch, we’ve taken work force training to a new level,” Tetreault said.
“We trained the work force with an emphasis on quality. Chicago Assembly has a record of
delivering vehicles with consistently high quality and excellent customer satisfaction. We
are doing everything we can to make this plant the most competitive in every measure.”
For Explorer, training sessions began mid-year, and included both classroom and hands-on
learning for new and existing employees. New workers were trained on “static” vehicles,
before being paired with an operator to ensure they were qualified to work on their own. A
staggered shift also helped integrate new employees, and ensured the same level of quality
on both shifts.
Additionally, a standardisation process adopted from Ford’s Hermosillo (Mexico) Stamping
and Assembly Plant assured that operators aren’t considered certified until they have
worked on 400 units consecutively without error. All workers had to achieve this milestone
before they could work alone on the line.
Building on history
Chicago Assembly has a proud history of producing high-quality vehicles. As Ford’s oldest
assembly plant in North America still in operation, it has produced generations of important
Ford cars and trucks. The original Chicago Assembly Plant produced the classic Model T, and
then later expanded into its current location and produced Ford delivery trucks, the Model
A and Model A Convertible Cabriolets, among others that have made their mark in automotive
In 1942, Chicago Assembly converted to war production, manufacturing nearly 6,000 M-8
armoured cars and M-20 reconnaissance armoured units, equipped with anti-mine floors
developed by Ford under the supervision of the Army Ordnance Department. Production of the
Mercury Sedan in 1945 marked the plant’s return to civilian vehicles.
In 2009, Chicago Assembly produced all of the company’s Ford Taurus and Lincoln MKS
In preparation for the imminent release of the 2011 Ford Explorer, the plant has begun to
ship the 2011 Explorer to North American Ford dealers.