BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Whenever Ford Motor Co. builds a new plant -- anywhere in the world -- Ford manufacturing chief Joe Hinrichs now requires that it have the same processes and equipment as other company facilities.
Hinrichs said standardizing worldwide boosts flexibility and is crucial to consistent cost savings and quality. He said Ford Fiesta subcompacts built in China will come from a factory identical to Ford's Cuautitlan plant in Mexico.
Within three years, 10 Ford assembly plants in North America should achieve "competitive levels of body shop flexibility," Hinrichs said in a keynote speech here at the Automotive News Manufacturing Conference.
Those include major new body shops at the Louisville assembly plant in Kentucky and the Michigan Assembly plant in the Detroit suburb of Wayne. Louisville will build an as-yet unidentified compact world car, while Michigan Assembly will build a new version of the Ford Focus small sedan.
Hinrichs said Ford is well-positioned to meet growing demand for smaller cars. "Within five years we will be building 1 million subcompact vehicles around the world and 2 million compact vehicles -- both off common global platforms," he said.
Ford is seeing the fruit of attention to quality, manufacturing and design, Hinrichs said. The company has received many vehicle quality awards and has cut warranty costs by $1.2 billion in the past 24 months, he said.
A cost-saving new labor accord with the UAW will allow Ford to build small cars profitably in the United States, Hinrichs said. He said manufacturing costs today are on an equal footing with foreign makers producing vehicles in nonunion U.S. factories.