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Old 09-28-2003, 06:23   #1 (permalink)
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U.S.A:Ford Atlanta plant gets sport wagons

By Amy Wilson
Automotive News / September 27, 2003

Ford Motor Co. will assemble new Ford and Lincoln sport wagons at its suburban Atlanta plant beginning in August 2006.

Production on the 2007 model Mazda6-based sport wagons will be launched at Ford's existing plant in Hapeville, Ga., said Mitchell Smith, shop chairman of UAW Local 882.

"They turned the model around, away from Canada to the Atlanta assembly plant," Smith told Automotive News.

It is the latest decision in Ford's back-and-forth assignment of the sport wagons, which are among the 10 Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles to be built off the Mazda6 mid-sized sedan platform.

Ford originally assigned the sport wagons to Atlanta. But earlier this year, Ford took them from Atlanta and moved them to its Oakville, Ontario, assembly plant. At that time, Atlanta workers were told they would continue building the Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable through 2009. Now the sport wagons are leaving Oakville and going back to Atlanta.

The fate of the Taurus and Sable is unclear, Smith said. Ford is still working out details for future Taurus and Sable production, according to a Ford source. The aging sedans will continue for some time, the source said, but probably not as long as 2009.

UAW Vice President Gerald Bantom informed Smith that Ford agreed to the new production plan for Atlanta during the UAW master contract talks. Ford and the UAW came to a tentative contract agreement on Sept. 15. Ratification votes on that agreement are continuing and are expected to wrap up Sunday, Sept. 28.

Leading into the talks, UAW leaders were angry that Ford planned to place a large portion of the Mazda6-based production at non-UAW plants. In addition to the sport wagons slated for the Canadian Auto Workers-represented Oakville plant, Ford also was expected to build the Ford Futura mid-sized sedan and related products in Hermosillo, Mexico. There is no word on whether Ford's plans for Hermosillo have changed.

In Georgia, sport wagon production will begin in the current assembly plant, a dated facility on a site near Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport with no room to expand.

Ford had considered building a new greenfield assembly plant in Georgia and was scouting sites in Meriwether and Morgan counties, each about an hour from Atlanta. The automaker put plans for a new plant on hold earlier this year.

The proposed plant, dubbed Project Fairlane, would include a stamping plant, plus separate buildings handling body, paint and final assembly for 240,000 vehicles annually.

Ford still hasn't ruled out the eventual construction of a new greenfield assembly plant in Georgia, Smith said.
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