(NewsNation) — It’s been a bumpy road for Americans working in the auto industry.
The pandemic changed the way plants operate, and the semiconductor chip shortage is ongoing. But that isn’t stopping Ford from constructing the 2022 F-150® Lightning™ all-electric truck amid all of that.
The new vehicle was constructed in a new state-of-the-art facility in Dearborn, Michigan. Plant manager Chris Skaggs took NewsNation on a tour.
The Ford River Rouge Complex in Dearborn took about one year to build. The assembly plant launched in 2020, but it was original site of the Dearborn assembly plant.
“It used to build the Mustangs until 2004. Right now we’re in the middle of the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center. We’re standing next to trim line two where we’re actually building F-150 Lightnings,” Skaggs said.
Since 2016, Ford has invested more than $7.7 billion in the state of Michigan, creating and retaining 7,000 jobs. It’s a part of the company’s massive investment in electric technology and infrastructure. The initiative has since spread to Kentucky, Tennessee and Texas.
Skaggs says it’s an important time to work for the company.
“We’re in the moment of building this big change for the company, the country and even the world going from gas to electric. So it’s very exciting to be part of that. I think everybody feels that,” he said.
Building an electric truck has a lot in common with building a gas-powered one, but at the Complex it’s built a bit differently. Each work station is ergonomically designed. Tools are custom-fitted and dialed into precise specification, there are no fixed assembly lines and autonomous robots deliver parts across the plant.
“It’s called a collaborative robot, which means we work with the robot. It doesn’t do all the work,” Skaggs said. “It has a skin on it, where I can actually touch it and will sense me and it will stop and won’t hurt me so I can actually work in this area.”
The entire assembly plant is anchored in new technology. The auto industry is moving to adapt this technology across the board.
“Everybody badges in so we know who’s on the job and we can custom set that workstation to fit them. Whether we have a shorter individual or a taller individual, it doesn’t matter. We can fit the work to them,” Skaggs told NewsNation.
The standard Lightning truck packs more than 400 horsepower and 775 pounds of instant torque, that’s more giddy up than the gas powered truck. The vehicle is equipped with 360 degree cameras and a touch screen technology to compete with Tesla.
Th F-150® Lightning™ is currently the only vehicle built at the plant, but the place is designed for future expansion. It takes about one full day for a truck to be built, start to finish. Ford is currently ramping up production to produce 150,000 per year.
Once trucks are completed, they undergo several tests and inspections before being charged and sent to the customers.