The first Ford Motor Co. plant to make a new line of fuel-efficient engines will help the company deliver the kind of fuel economy that customers demand, officials said Friday.
The plant in suburban Cleveland, idled since 2007, was chosen to make the 3.5-liter, V-6 EcoBoost engines that will be standard on the Ford Taurus SHO and optional on the Lincoln MKS and MKT, and Ford Flex cars.
EcoBoost engines combine direct injection technology and turbo-charging for improved fuel efficiency and lower CO2 emissions. Ford says they can achieve up to 20 percent better fuel and 15 percent lower CO2 emissions, compared with larger displacement engines, without sacrificing power.
Pressured by Washington and last year's spike in gasoline prices, the troubled auto industry has accelerated what was a gradual push toward smaller and more fuel-efficient cars.
The new EcoBoost engine will get an estimated 25 to 26 miles per gallon on the highway and 18 to 20 miles per gallon in city driving, said Gary Johnson, Ford's director of powertrain manufacturing.
He said pressure on the industry in Washington was not a factor in the decision to introduce the EcoBoost engine production now in the economically struggling Cleveland area.
"The EcoBoost technology has been worked on for a couple of years now," he said.
Ford made a $55 million investment in Cleveland Engine Plant No. 1 to get it ready for the EcoBoost engine because a previous retooling in 2004 and its availability now allowed for needed flexibility, he said.
The program is designed to be a first step toward using the technology in four-cylinder engines, and it is not expected to affect ongoing V6 engine production in Lima, Ohio, he said.
Cleveland Engine Plant No. 1, which was Ford's first engine plant in Ohio when it opened in 1951, had more than 500 employees when it was shut down in May 2007. It was retooled to make 3.5-liter engines, but production wasn't immediately needed, and the opening date was pushed back at least twice.
Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford said Friday it initially will use about 250 workers from another engine plant and a casting plant at the Cleveland-area site.
The announcement is a slight reprieve for Ohio, a state reeling with layoffs and whose ties to the auto industry are second only to Michigan. Ohio released new jobless figures Friday showing that the state's unemployment rate was 8.8 percent in January, up from the revised rate of 7.4 in December and the highest level in more than 20 years.
Mike Gammella, president of the United Auto Workers Local 1250, said the union hopes the new EcoBoost engine will lead to more jobs.
"It's really a good thing," he said. "Whenever you can bring a new product in, especially a product of this magnitude, it's sensational news, especially in this economy."
By AP Business Writer M.R. Kropko
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