CLAYCOMO, Mo. - Saturday morning is the final time a Ford Escape will roll off the assembly line at the Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycomo, Missouri. Production is moving south to Louisville.
More than 1,200 workers will go on temporary, paid layoff for about a year as the plant is expanded and upgraded in preparation for production of the Ford Transit, a full-sized van.
Plant manager Kevin Gideon says Ford is excited by the Transit's prospects not only in the auto industry, but for the local economy as well. The already large facility will expand from about 4.7 million square feet to 5.2 million square feet.
Ford also plans to hire 1,600 new workers by 2015, on top of the 1,200 workers that will come back once their layoff is over.
Gideon says it's an exciting time at the plant, but also a time of change.
"It's hard sometimes when you talk about, when I have meetings with the workforce because they're so used to the Escape and all the heavy volume that we've had and the success the plant has had with the Escape," said Gideon.
The Escape has been produced exclusively in Claycomo since its inception in 2000. Gideon says the Escape is America's best selling SUV and had its best sales quarter ever earlier this year, with 50,000 vehicles sold in the United States.
The plant should be finished about a year from now. The F-150 will continue to be produced in the meantime.