Automaker Ford announced big changes to its F-150 pickup truck at the Detroit Auto Show on Monday and that means big changes to Kansas City’s auto industry. Ford’s plant in Claycomo, Mo., is one of just two factories that builds the F-150, the most popular vehicle in America.
Starting with its 2015 model, the new F-150 will be manufactured mostly from aluminum, rather than much heavier steel.
Many auto-watchers are calling it a game-changer for the industry. And the Claycomo plant is right in the thick of it.
Here’s what the news that’s shaking up the auto industry means for Kansas City:
- Kansas City autoworkers will be on the cutting edge
Aluminum has been used in vehicles before, but mostly in sports cars from Audi and Jaguar and in other low-volume models. That’s why the news that the F-150 will be 97 percent aluminum is shaking up the industry. Spurred mostly by tightening federal emissions standards, automakers are trying to lighten the weight of their cars. This is a big step for Ford in that direction and it’s all happening in Kansas City. Many expect other auto companies to follow suit.
- The Claycomo plant will continue to be a part of the most popular vehicle on the road
KCUR’s Frank Morris talked to a spokesman at Ford who said there are no plans to move construction of the F-150 line out of Kansas City. The company has invested heavily in Kansas City-area operations and shows no sign of abandoning its plants here.
- Expect Kansas City autoworkers to be re-trained
Working with aluminum – which is much lighter, more malleable and more expensive than steel – is going to be different for autoworkers. They undergo regular training, but Ford will have to invest in lots more for the plants making the aluminum shift.
- It’s a big risk for Ford
Which means it’s a risk for the nearly 4,000 autoworkers at Ford’s Claycomo facility and its related stamping plant in Liberty, Mo.