Ford plant hails launch of new Super Duty
BY ROBERT SCHOENBERGER
THE (LOUISVILLE, KY.) COURIER-JOURNAL
A version of Ford's big pickup -- a 2008 F-450 Super Duty model -- makes a powerful entrance during a ceremony at the Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville, Ky., on Monday. (ARZA BARNETT/Associated Press)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The celebration wasn't supposed to take place Monday.
Ford Motor Co. had planned to start producing its 2008 F-Series Super Duty truck line at the Kentucky Truck Plant in January.
But workers got the bugs out of the system in record time, new equipment worked as planned and assembly of the important new pickup line started at midnight Monday.
"The launch is going so well, you guys pulled ahead one week," Todd Bryant, the plant's manager, told employees Monday during a celebration ceremony at the Louisville, Ky., facility.
The early start is a good sign for a product that Ford needs to get right, said Mark Fields, president of Ford's Americas division and the executive driving the company's "Way Forward" turnaround plan.
"There is no other family of trucks like this," Fields said of the Super Duty line. He entered the plant in a red F-450 pickup after a 2008 F-250 pickup with a custom red, white and blue paint job towed a stage into place.
With few new vehicles heading to dealerships over the next year, Ford needs its 2007 and 2008 launches to succeed. Super Duty trucks account for about 40% of the F-Series line, Ford's biggest seller.
To appeal to truck buyers and to meet stricter emissions standards, Ford redesigned the diesel engine for the 2008 model, making it more powerful, quieter and cleaner. About 75% of Super Duty trucks have diesel engines, Ford officials said.
New for the 2008 model year is an F-450 pickup. Earlier F-450 models were available only as chassis-cab units -- trucks with cabs and frame rails extending out of the back instead of a pickup box. The F-450 will be able to tow 24,000 pounds.
"We're starting to run out of things to tow with this baby," Fields said.
Rocky Comito, president of UAW Local 862, praised the plant's 4,800 hourly workers, calling Louisville "the truck capital of the world."
In a similar vein, Bob King, the union's international vice president, added, "Toyota or Honda or the Germans can try to come into the truck market ... and we will beat anyone in the world."
Ken Macfarlane, Ford's manufacturing director, said its competitors are using the Super Duty as a starting point in designing their heavy-duty trucks.
"Fortunately, they've decided to benchmark where we were, not where we're going."
The new trucks were unveiled in September at the State Fair of Texas in Dallas.