LIMA — The Ford Lima Engine Plant is operating very close to capacity, and in 2012 employees built the most engines ever with the current line, Plant Manager Mike Felix said Tuesday.
The plant made more than 507,000 engines in 2012, which was down from forecasts, but that exceeded 2011’s 498,000. The plant is expected to make more than 500,000 engines again in 2013, Felix told the members of the Lima Auto Task Force.
Also, the company continues its construction of a new engine line at the plant. That line will begin pre-production models of a new V-6 EcoBoost engine in about a year, and most of the hiring for the line will happen in 2014.
“It’s all good news,” Felix said. “We expect current volume to remain strong.”
The new engine will use next-generation EcoBoost technology and will be a twin-turbo, direct-injection engine, Felix said. The engine will use two types of fuel charging to get the fuel economy it needs.
Ford forecasts it will sell between 15 million and 16 million new vehicles in 2013. Like the Lima plant, Ford is operating at close to capacity company-wide.
Other automakers are also coming close to topping out their current capacity, Lima Mayor David Berger said he learned on a call with the Center for Automotive Research. Lima is a member of CAR’s Automotive Communities group. Hyundai-Kia has even decided to lose market share in the short term because it is operating at maximum capacity and choosing to not expand.
Lima’s efficiency and quality improved in 2012 over 2011, Felix said. Lima-made engines go in the Taurus, Explorer, the Police Interceptor versions of those two vehicles, Edge, Edge Sport, Flex, and Lincoln’s MKT and MKZ.
While a lot of technology news is centered around electrified vehicles, just as many improvements are happening to traditional combustion engines, Berger said.
Inevitably, there will be more and more electric vehicles, Felix said, but the change will be in small steps over a generation. The combustion engine is sticking around, Felix said.
“Electrification of vehicles is still in its infancy,” Felix said. “I don’t see the combustible engine design going away soon.”