DEAUVILLE, France - Ford Motor Co. is using assembly techniques of the future on the Focus, its lower-medium car of the future.
At Ford's two European plants building the Focus, Tier 1 suppliers have factories in adjacent industrial parks.
From there, they ship 15 key subassembly modules via conveyors to the Focus assembly line.
The setup reflects Ford's move toward modular assembly, said Al Kammerer, Focus vehicle line director. Ford, like other automakers, has made suppliers responsible for developing and delivering major groups of related parts.
In Brazil, the world's laboratory for such efforts, Ford, General Motors and others are creating new plants built around the concept. Volkswagen has gone the furthest by having suppliers assemble trucks inside VW's plant.
But those are low-volume projects. Ford's Focus eventually will account for more than one million units a year, and will be produced in several countries.
In Europe, the Focus is built in Saarlouis, Germany, and Valencia, Spain. Ford expects to follow the European strategy when the Focus goes into production in North America next year.
Kammerer said Ford used global sourcing as much as possible on the Focus. He said in cases where Ford cannot use one supplier for the same part, the automaker plans to use a 'technology exchange.'
However, because so many key North American suppliers already have factories near the Wayne, Michigan, plant where Ford will build the Focus, there may not be a supplier park there.
The 15 key modules in Europe include some that have heavy Ford content, such as the engine and transmission.
Those powertrain units are arranged into modules by Logistik Magazin Saarlouis, a logistics company, in the industrial park.
Other subassemblies, such as suspension, seating and the instrument panel, are already very close to modularization.
Kammerer said that in North America, Ford's Visteon Automotive Systems subsidiary is likely to perform some of the work being done in Europe by local suppliers, such as the door panel subassemblies.
In Europe, Visteon supplies instrument panels and steering modules for the Focus, as well as other components, such as the fuel pump.
The Focus, which replaces the Escort, goes on sale in Europe, starting this month.