Production of Ford Motor Company’s new 6.8-litre V8 engine for use in its Super Duty F-series truck lineup is scheduled to begin in January, requiring the launch of a third shift at Windsor’s Annex Engine Plant.
Just how many new hires that shift will require has not been finalized, but a decision is expected this month.
“The January start is firm we’ve been told,” said Unifor Local 200 vice president Tim Little.
“Ford is putting everything in order, clearing their supply chain to ensure we get the parts needed because the 6.2-litre engine built in Romeo (Michigan) is going away. They have to have the 6.8-litre for that Kentucky truck plant.”
The 6.8-litre engine will become the standard gas power plant for Ford’s Super Duty trucks and will be produced only in Windsor. The Annex Plant currently produces the 7.3-litre motor for the F-series trucks and will continue to be the lone source for that engine.
Ford will also offer the Mexican-built 6.7-litre V8 Power Stroke diesel engine for their 2023 Super Duty lineup.
The Windsor Annex plant got a further boost with last week’s announcement by Ford that it is investing $700 million into its Kentucky truck complex and adding 500 jobs to meet the surging demand for the F-series pickup trucks.
“That (announcement) was huge for us,” Little said. “Kentucky is the most profitable plant in North America bar none. That plant never stops running.”
Currently Windsor’s Annex plant has 835 full-time employees and 80 temporary part-time workers.
Ford’s Essex engine plant, which produces the 5.0-litre engine for use in F-series pickups and the Mustang, has 788 full-time employees and 80 temporary part-time workers.
Both the existing 5.0-litre and 7.3-litre engines have also undergone technical upgrades to improve their efficiency and performance for the 2023 model year.
“They’ve done the interviews, so they’re ready to go,” Little said of hiring for the third shift. “They just have to send out the letters offering jobs. The third shift will be done in three phases.”
Little said Ford officials have already spoken to the union about having the Annex plant work six or seven days a week. He said had the company not been plagued by COVID and some parts shortages, the Annex plant would already be working that type of schedule making the 7.3-litre engine.
“That’s unheard of in engine assembly,” Little said.
Ford has great incentive to push those Windsor engines out the door quickly for its truck lineup.
F-series trucks generated $40 billion in revenue for the company in 2021. That represents one-third of Ford’s global revenue.
Little said the addition of the 6.8-litre engine gives consumers, who need the towing and hauling capacity required in construction and industry, an improved option at a cost still below the 7.3-litre ‘Godzilla’ powerplant.
“It’s a cast-iron block and they’ve gone back to the pushrod technology,” Little said.
“Its focus is making the torque down low for pulling. It’s designed for really heavy-duty hauling and towing.”
Little said Unifor officials were also happy to hear Ford CEO Jim Farley talk last week about the potential longevity and the company’s willingness to continue to invest in new versions of internal combustion engines for heavy duty trucks.
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Farley expects hydrogen fuel cells to be the alternative energy source Ford uses to replace combustion engines in its super duty trucks before electric batteries.
“It was good to hear him say those things about ICE products,” Little said.
“For those needing to haul and tow big weight in the construction and mining industries, electric vehicles don’t suit their needs yet. Towing drops an EV’s range from say 400 miles to about 100.
“There’s still lessons to be learned when it comes to super duty electric pickup trucks.”