January 30, 2014 / 4:05 PM / 6 years ago

Ford to boost large truck production at Kentucky plant

DETROIT (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co (F.N) is spending $80 million to boost production of large pickups and SUVs this year at its Louisville truck plant, the U.S. automaker said Thursday.

A Ford logo is seen on the grill of a 2015 F-150 truck outside the New York Stock Exchange in the Manhattan borough of New York, January 13, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

The Kentucky facility, one of two Ford plants in Louisville, last year built 353,662 vehicles. Most of those were Ford’s popular F-Series Super Duty, a bigger, brawnier sibling to the company’s mainstay F-150 pickup.

The truck plant, which opened in 1969 and has been running close to its rated annual capacity of 365,000, will hike that by 55,000 to 420,000, Ford said. The plant will add 350 jobs to its current workforce of nearly 4,000.

Ford did not provide further details about the timeline of the expansion plans.

The F-Series Super Duty accounted for the bulk of production last year in Louisville, at 272,521, according to data from Automotive News. The plant also built 78,500 Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator SUVs.

The standard F-150 is being redesigned late this year, with most of its steel body panels being replaced with lighter-weight aluminum.

The Super Duty pickups aren’t slated for a major overhaul until late 2015 when they, too, are expected to feature more aluminum.

The Expedition and Navigator SUVs will be restyled and updated this fall for the 2015 model year. They sell in much smaller numbers than the Super Duty, which includes the F-250, F-350, F-450 and F-550 pickups. Many of those trucks are purchased by commercial users, including construction workers and small-business owners.

The mildly revised 2015 F-Series Super Duty goes on sale this spring, with a more powerful 6.7-liter V8 turbo-diesel engine and greater towing capacity.

Ford does not break out sales of the Super Duty models from the standard F-Series. The full line continues to be the best-selling vehicle in the U.S., with sales last year jumping 18 percent to 763,402.

Expedition sales in 2013 rose 1 percent to 38,350 in 2013, while Navigator sales increased 3 percent to 8,613.

Reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli

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