Ford Motor Co. is investing $80 million in its Kentucky Truck plant in Louisville to boost production capacity of Super Duty pickups by 15 percent.
The factory will be able to build 55,000 additional units a year when the upgrades are completed, Ford said.
The plant produces the Ford F-250, F-350, F-450 and F-550 Super Duty pickups, along with the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator SUVs.
The company said it will add 350 jobs as part of the expansion.
Demand for Super Duty pickups has grown “substantially,” Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of the Americas, said in a statement.
The 6-million-square-foot plant employs nearly 4,000 people. The body and paint shop will get “significant automation improvements,” the company said.
The upgrades are to be completed by March, Ford spokesman Mike Levine said. On the prospects of Ford building aluminum Super Duty pickups, Levine said the company will “always use the right material for the right vehicle,” but that the company won’t speculate about future products.
“The average age of a truck that’s out there is around 11 years old. We have customers who waited until the economy started to recover to buy a new a truck, so we’re meeting demand for our customers who need a brand-new heavy-duty pickup or chassis cab,” Levine said.
U.S. sales of big pickups are booming as housing and construction markets recover. In 2013, U.S. sales of full-sized pickups jumped 17 percent to 1.9 million units.
The F series tallied U.S. sales of 763,402 units in 2013, an 18 percent increase from 2012.
“We are happy to be adding new jobs at Kentucky Truck plant because we know the impact these jobs will have on the local community,” Jimmy Settles, UAW vice president in charge of the union’s Ford Department, said in a statement. “It’s especially rewarding to know these jobs come as a result of customer demand.”
The Super Duty line accounts for roughly one-third of F-series production. Here’s a look at Super Duty output since 2009:
• 2009: 179,569 (32% of F-series output)
• 2010: 200,384 (31%)
• 2011: 242,139 (33.2%)
• 2012: 252,992 (29.9%)
• 2013: 275,521 (29.4%)