Ford Motor Co. said on Tuesday that it would pump $900 million into Kentucky Truck Plant to retain local production of the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator.
A Ford spokeswoman told Insider that the investments would retain 1,000 jobs at the plant, which employs 7,600 workers who primarily make the Ford Super Duty truck.
Ford plans to build, among other things, a new body shop as the new Expedition and Navigator will have an aluminum alloy body. The investment resembles those the automaker announced in late 2015, when it said that it would spend $1.3 billion and create 2,000 jobs at KTP to prepare for the launch of the all-new Super Duty. That vehicle, too, has an aluminum alloy body and required the building of a new body shop.
Local workers are expected to begin producing the new Expedition and Navigator this fall, shortly before they appear in showrooms, Ford told Insider. The models are made exclusively in Louisville. The workers are represented by the United Auto Workers union. Wages of new hires start at $15.78 but rise to $22.50 within four years.
The Expedition is one of the company’s larger, more expensive SUVs, an eight-seater that starts at about $47,000. Its smaller cousin, the Escape, generally seats five and starts at about $32,000. The Escape is made exclusively at Louisville Assembly Plant.
“Large SUVs are attracting a new generation around the world, and we’re finding new ways to deliver the capability, versatility and technology that customers around the world really want with our all-new Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator,” Joe Hinrichs, Ford executive vice president and president of Global Operations, said in the release.
Sales for the Expedition this year have spiked nearly 30 percent, though volume is significantly behind its smaller cousins. Ford sold about 26,000 Expeditions during the first five months of the year. It sold about twice as many Edges, and about six times as many Escapes.
The Navigator, the Expedition’s luxury cousin, is a niche model, of which the automaker sells less than 1,000 per month.
Ford sales analyst Erich Merkle told Insider via email that demand for the Expedition and Navigator was driven in part by baby boomers who had been longtime buyers of large, luxurious SUVs and remained in the category even after their children left the household. But the majority of demand is coming from people in their late 30s and 40s.
“This is the age when many families have the need for additional space, as their children are now approaching or moving into their teenage years. The children are larger and have activities where cargo and space also become more necessary,” Merkle said.