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Ford to invest $1 billion in Chicago plants, hire 500 workers

In this Oct. 22, 2014 photo, workers perform final inspections on 2015 Ford Explorers on the assembly line at the Chicago Ford Assembly Plant.

Ford Motor Co. says it is investing $1 billion in its Chicago plants. AP file photo

Ford Motor Co. announced Thursday it will invest $1 billion to upgrade its two Chicago-area plants and hire 500 workers here.

Ford plans to expand capacity to produce an all-new Ford Explorer, Police Interceptor Utility and Lincoln Aviator.

The automaker operates an assembly plant on the city’s Southeast Side and a stamping plant in south suburban Chicago Heights.

“When it’s all finished, Chicago Assembly will have an all new state-of-the-art body shop, an all-new paint shop and new tooling to build this new lineup,” Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of global operations, said during a news conference at McCormick Place ahead of the Chicago Auto Show.

Upgrades at the assembly plant are to begin in March and be completed this spring.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel with Joe Hinrichs, Ford's president of global operations, at the Chicago Auto Show on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel with Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of global operations, at the Chicago Auto Show on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

“It may be built Ford tough, but I can say with absolute confidence it will be Chicago tough as well,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said after viewing the new vehicles, which will go on sale later this year.

The company said the new hires — about 200 have been added in recent weeks — will all be assigned to the Torrence Avenue Assembly Plant, bringing the total number of workers there to about 4,600. There are about 1,200 workers at the Chicago Heights Stamping Plant.

Hinrichs said $40 million will also be spent to “improve our employees’ work experience” on things like new LED lighting, increased security, a renovated cafeteria and new break areas.

“We want an environment where everybody wants to work and feel that their children can work there,” Hinrichs said.

The plants have a history of sexual and racial harassment that resulted in millions spent on legal settlements in recent years.

In April, Ford announced it will shed most of its North American car lineup as part of a broad plan to save money and make the company more competitive in a fast-changing marketplace.

Production of the Ford Taurus at the company’s two Chicago-area plants will stop in March.